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riliS. I— 4 M|SS1:L TURISH. 

5— 9 Song Thrush. 

10- 17 Bl,ACKIIIRn. 

Tk.S. 18—19 RlN<- OfZRI.. 

20 Whkatkar. 

71 22 WlIlNCIIAT. 






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Fir.s. 34 Rkdst^hi. 

25— aS Kki>urcast. 
29— 31 Nightingale. 

PL. II. 





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Tigs 3J— 34 WniTRTiiROAT. Fh 

35_37 IvKssi'.R WmTHTHROAT 

38—41 BUACKIAB' 

42—44 (rARDKN WaKIII.KR 

45 I)ARTl-ORl) Warhlkr 

46— 4S Golden-Crbstkd Wren 



:,^ ,. ', .1:1 1 _ 11 M-i' 

5^—54 Wir.i.ow-W'ARHUKR. 


56—57 RKKn-WARllI.KR 

5S— 60 

61—62 SEI'GK-\VaRI1I.EB 

63 r.RASSiiorrER Warhlhr 


Figs 64 Savi's Warblbr 

65—67 Urdgr-Sparrow 


69 Ix)N<i-TAii.KD Tit 

70 Diri-ER 

7 1 --72 <",RKAT Tit 

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''9 80 








J J } 

88 89 90 














FiC9. 73—75 Coal i i i 

76—77 Marsh Tit. 

78—81 Bluk Tit. 

82 CR8ST811 Tit. 

83—84 Nuthatch. 

85—87 Wrbn. 

88 — 90 Trkk Crebper. 


91 I'lEl) WAGTAII.. 

92 White Wagtail. 
9j r.RKv Wagtail. 

94 Uli'e-IIbaded Waotail. 

95 — 96 Yellow Waotaii.. 

97—100 Tree-1'ii'it. 

loi Meauow-Pipit. 

KiGS. 102 RocK-PiriT. 

103 Golden Oriole. 

104—108 Red-Backed Shrike 

109 WooDCUAT Shrike. 


111-^113 Spotted Flycatcher. 

I-iGS. 114 'i«J Swallow I'k-s. iao-125 i'.rkknkinch. J-iop. 132—143 Housk-Si'arrow. 

117 Martin. u6-ia« Hawfinch. i44-147 Tkkk Sparrow. 

11H-119 Sand-Mahiiv 129-13" 148—155 Chah'inch 

131 Siskin. 





By ARTHUR G. BUTLER, M.B.O.U., Ph.D., F.L.S., F.Z.S., F.E.S., 

Corresponding Member of Various Foreign Societies, 

Author of "British Birds' Eggs, A Handbook of British Oology" (Illustrated by the Author). 

" I'oreign Bird Keeping ;" ' Hints on Cage Birds;" "How to get Cage Birds" 

and numerous Scientific Works and Memoirs dealing with various branches of Zoology. 





^1 - i*74^HT- /Vyr XT) 


This Volume contains : 

4 Colored Plates of Eggs. 
56 Colored Plates of Birds. 
2 Pages of Introduction. 
210 Pages of Descriptive Text. 


Those marked thus, * not beiug recognised as British Birds, are not figured. 

Acccn/or coUaris 

AcceJitor viodularis 

Acredn'a caudaia 

Acroccphahts aquaticus 

Acroccphalus paluslris 

Acroccphalns phragmitis 

Acroiephahis strcpcnts 
*Acroccphalus titrdoides 
*A'edo7i ga lac t odes 

Alpine Accentor 
*American Robin 

Anthus campestris 
*Anthus cervinus 

Anthus obscunis 

Anthus pratensis 

Anthus richardi- 
*Anthus spipoletta 

Aiithiis trivialis 

Aquatic Warbler 

Barred Warbler 

Bearded Reedling 


Blackcap - - - - 

Black Redstart 
*Black-Throated Thrush - 
*Black-Throated Wheatear 

Blue-Headed Wagtail 

Blue-Tit - - - - 

*Calliope camtschatkensis 
Certhia familiar is 
Chififchaff - - - - 
Cincltis aquatinis 
Coal-Tit - - - - 
Cyanecula suecica 

Dartford Warbler - 
Daulias luscinia 


^Desert Wheatear 





Erithacus rubccula 


Fieldfare - 


Fire-Crested Wren - 



Garden Warbler 


Golden-Crested Wren 


Grasshopper Warbler 


*Great Reed- Warbler 


Great Tit 


Grey Wagtail - 



*Hypolais iderina 


*Icterine Warbler 


*Isabelline Wheatear - 


Lesser Whitethroat - 


Locustdla luscinioidcs 


Locustella 7iavia 


Long-Tailed Tit 


Marsh -Tit 




Meadow-Pipit - 


Missel Thrush - 


Motacilla alba - 


Motacilla Jiava - 


Motacilla lugiibris 


Motacilla niclatiope 


Motacilla rail - 


^Monticola saxatilis 







*Orphean Warbler 














1 86 






Panwus biarmkus 
Parus akr 
Parus ccerulais - 
Parus cristaltis - - - 
Parus major 
Parus paluslris - 
Phylloscopus rnfus 
Phylloscopus sibilatrix 
Phylloscopus supcrciliosus - 
Phylloscopus trochilus 
Pied Wagtail - 
Pralintola riihclra 
Pratincola rubicola 

Redbreast - - - - 
Red-Spotted Bluethroat - 
Redstart - - - - 
*Red-Throated Pipit - 
Redwing - - - - 
Reed-Warbler - 
Regulus crisiaiwi 
Regulus ignicapillus 
Richard's Pipit - 
Rock- Pipit 
*Rock-Thrush - 
♦Rufous Warbler 
Ruticilla phanicurus - 
Ruticilla iitys - 
*Ruby-Throated Warbler 

Savi's Warbler 

Saxicola u-nanthe 
*Saxicola deserti - 
* Saxicola isabellina 
*Saxicola slapazina 

Sedge-Warbler - 
*Siberian Ground Thrush 

Sitta cccsia 



Song Thrush - 


Stonechat - 


Sylvia atricapilla 


Sylvia ciytcrca - 


Sylvia curruca ■ 


Sylvia hortoisis 


Sylvia jiisoria - 


*Sylvia orphca - 


Sylvia widata - 


Tawny Pipit 


*Tichodro)iia muraria - 


Tree-Creeper - 




Troglodytes parvulus - 


*Turdus airigularis 


Turdus i/iacus - 

201 1 

Turdus merula - 


*Turdus migratorius - 


Turdus musicus 


Turdus pilaris - 


* Turdus sibiricus 


Turdus torquatus 


Turdus varius - 


Turdus viscivorus 




nVall-Creeper - 

♦Water Pipit 

Wheatear - 


White's Thrush 




White Wagtail - 


Willow Warbler 


Wood Warbler 





Vellow- Browed Warbler 


Yellow Wagtail 



















THIS group of Birds has always been a favourite with me, as with most 
students of the feathered race. I have taken and preserved both nests and 
eggs of most of the British species, and have studied the habits of many 
of them in captivity, as well as in a wild state. 

The Order Passeres (following the classification adopted by Howard Saunders 
in his admirable "Illustrated Manual") includes seventeen families, the members 
of which are mostly suitable for aviary or cage-life ; of these the Turdida (Thrush- 
like birds), the Fringillida (Finches), and Alaudidce (Lark-like birds) find favour 
with the larger number of Aviculturists. 

The family Turdida, the first on our list, has been sub-divided into three 
sub-families : — 

I. — Turdince (Thrushes) in which the first plumage is spotted above and below. 
The males with long slender bills as compared with the females, in which they 
are distinctly broader and shorter. 

2. — SylviincE (Warblers) in which the young closely resemble their parents 
excepting in their paler or duller colouring. The width of the bills differs little 
in the sexes, but tbat of the female is distinctly shorter. 

3. — Accentorince (Accentors) including our so-called " Hedge-Sparrow," birds 
which, though spotted after the manner of true Thrushes when they leave the 

2 Order Passekes. 

nest, exhibit affinity to the Titmice in their strong straight subconical bills, 
rounded wings with short bastard primary (the first feather in the wing), and 
strong scaled feet : the latter have the outer and middle toes united and the upper 
extremity of the tarsus is feathered. Bills of the sexes much alike, that of the 
female perhaps a trifle the longer. 

In their habits the Accentors seem to me more nearl}- to resemble the Tits 
than the Thrushes. Not oul}- do their quick jerky movements and acrobatic actions 
remind one of the former ; but, like the Tits, they are largelj' seed-eaters. 

The Thrushes of Great Britain are represented by eight genera: — Tardus 
(Thrushes so-called) ; Monticola (Rock-Thrushes) ; Saxico/a (Wheatears) ; Pratincola 
(Chats); Riiticilla (Redstarts); Cyanecuta (Blue-throats); Erithacus (Redbreasts); 
and Datilias (Nightingales). 

The more tj'pical Thrushes are the largest members of the Sub-famih' ; the}' 
are bold, handsome, strongly-built birds, with a vigorous direct flight, at times 
somewhat sinuous but generally in a straight line. On the earth the)' proceed, 
either by running for short stages, with the head depressed and neck somewhat 
extended (but, at the end of each stage, assuming an erect and attentive posture, 
sometimes with a simultaneous elevation of the tail) ; or, if in a hnny, thej' clear 
the ground by long hops. Some of these are admirable songsters, and consequently 
are greatly sought for as cage-birds. 

Excepting in very severe weather. Thrushes are very shy of entering traps ; 
they also show considerable cunning in upsetting some forms of net-traps, especiallj- 
that known to bird-catchers as the " Caravan " : indeed it is rare to find any but 
birds of the year caught by this ingenious contrivance. This fact is perhaps rather 
an advantage than otherwise to the trapper, for young birds not only become more 
rapidly reconciled to captivity, but naturally last longer, as song-birds, than those 
which have spent several years of their lives in freedom. 

All the typical Thrushes build open cup-shaped nests, the walls of which are 
strongly built, usually with a lining of mud, clay, or cow-dung, and in most cases 
with a thick outer lining concealing the mud : the eggs usually number from four 
to six and, more frequently than not, are of some shade of green marked with 
some shade of brown. 




The Missel Thrush. 

Family— TURDID.^E. Subfamily— TURBINE. 

The Missel Thrush. 

Jidiliis visciz'onis, LiNN. 

THIS, the largest of our resident Thrushes, breeds throughout the suitable 
districts of temperate Europe, from Norway southward to Spain, and 
even to Northern Africa. Eastward, its range extends through Turkestan 
to the North-western Himalayas and Lake Baikal in Siberia ; it is resident in 
many of the milder regions, but the greater number winter in Southern 
Europe and Northern Africa, the Siberian birds migrating to Northern India, 
Persia, and iVfrica north of the Sahara. 

In Great Britain the Missel Thrush is generally distributed throughout 
England and Wales; in Ireland also, since 1800, it has become tolerably 
common ; in Scotland its range has gradually extended northwards throughout 
most of the Hebrides ; in the Orkneys it has appeared after easterly gales, 
but from Shetland it has not been recorded. 

The upper parts of the adult bird are greyish olive brown, slightly 
darker on the head, and slightly more golden on the lower back ; the variation 
of tint is, however, barely perceptible ; the under parts (excepting the chin 
and throat, which are white, and the cheeks which are huffish white) are buff, 
strongly pronounced in young birds, but growing paler year by year until, 
in old birds, it becomes huffish white ; the fore-chest and flanks are of a 
deeper buff, the cheeks and sides of neck indistinctly streaked with greyish 
brown and a few spear-shaped spots ; on the chin and throat the spots are 
more arrow-shaped, on the fore-chest black and spear-shaped, and on the 
remainder of the under parts fan-shaped ; the upper wing-coverts are broadly edged 
at the tips with dull white, the flights are slaty-grey, the primaries with 
white outer edges, the secondaries externally suffused with huffish, and nar- 
rowly tipped with white; under wing coverts and axillaries pure white; tail 
feathers smoky- grey, narrowly pale- edged towards the tips ; bill dark brown, 
paler towards the base, especially on the lower mandible ; legs pale brown ; 


4 The Missel Thrush. 

iris dark brown. The female is more thick-set than the male, and has a thicker 
shorter bill. 

The Missel Thrush may be met with in almost any locality where trees 
are to be found, in woods, coppices, plantations, parks, pleasure-grounds, 
shrubberies, large gardens and orchards ; in such places it makes its home and 
brings ujd its family. The nest is frequently built either in the fork of a 
branch or on the top of a strong horizontal bough, but perhaps the favourite 
site is in the central hollow, formed by the branching off of the lichen-covered 
boughs of some old apple tree. In the experience of the writer it is rare to 
find this nest either in a ver}^ lofty or lowly position, but on one occasion he 
saw it in a forked branch near the top of a tall elm tree in Hj-de Park ; whilst, 
on the other hand, the late Mr. E. T. Booth once observed it in a small 
stunted bush within three feet of the ground. Instances of this bird building 
in bushes are, however, extremely rare. Most nests will be found at an altitude 
of from ten to fifteen feet. 

The structure of the nest of the IMissel Thrush is very solid, not un- 
like that of the Blackbird. It is frequently placed upon a foundation of mud, 
sheep's wool and twigs. The outer walls are usuall}'^ formed of twigs, roots, 
straws, and grasses, sometimes interwoven with wool and coarse moss ; within 
this is a lining of mud or cla}', brought in pellets and mixed with grass or 
roots. The inner lining is composed of finer grass, roots, and sometimes a 
little moss. When lichens abound on the tree where the nest is situated a 
few pieces are occasionally used to ornament the exterior, but one can hardly 
suppose that a bird which places its nest almost invariably in a conspicuous 
position, would make this addition with a view to concealment, although, b}' 
rendering the outer walls of its domicile more like the branch on which it 
rests, this result is, in a measure obtained. 

The number of eggs laid by the Missel Thrush varies from three to five, 
but four is the usual number. The colouring is rather suggestive of those 
of the Chaffinch, the ground colour being either pale greenish blue, 3-ellowish 
green, or brownish flesh tinted, boldl}' speckled, spotted and often blotched 
with deep chocolate brown, and showing pearl grej' or lavender underlying 
spots ; in size they correspond verj' nearly with those of the Blackbird, 
but as regards their outline they more often give one the impression of being 
widest near the centre, than the eggs of that species. 

The pairing time of the Missel Thrush is early in February, and at this 
season, like most birds, they are excccdingl}' quarrelsome ; the first nest is 
occasionally commenced before the end of the same mouth, but oulj' in the 

The Missel Thrush. 5 

South of England, where the bird is generally double-brooded ; in my own 
experience its nidification extends from March to May, April being the month when 
most nests are to be found. 

If disturbed when sitting, the Missel Thrush is very noisy, but any attempt 
to interfere with the young is the signal for a perfect uproar ; then too is 
the time to watch the perfect flight of this powerful bird as he sweeps round 
in wide circles, or, as the intruder stoops to examine the nest, flashes through 
the very branches close to his head ; uttering wild guttural curses and shrieking 
out horrid oaths : well has this bird earned its titles of " Screech Thrush " 
and "Holm screech." 

The song of the Missel Thrush is wild, powerful and not without melody, 
although somewhat monotonous ; it is uttered from early autumn until its 
nesting duties commence ; and, wet or fiue, from early dawn to dewy eve, its 
rich notes may be heard ; in the wildest and stormiest weather, it tries to 
raise its voice above the uproar of the elements ; on which account the well- 
known name of " Stormcock " has beeu bestowed upon it. In the East Riding 
of Yorkshire it is called " Charley Cock." 

The food consists of berries, small fruits, seeds, snails, slugs, worms, larvae 
and insects. It is especiall}- fond of the berries of the mountain ash, and after 
these it chooses those of the hawthorn or ivy ; the berries of the mistletoe, to 
which it owes its name of IMistletoe Thrush, or Missel Thrush, are rarely 
eaten by it ; during the autumn when grain is being sown, this bird eats it 
greedil}', a fact which should be borne in mind by those who keep cage birds, many 
of whom labour under the delusion that because a bird is called "insectivorous" 
it should have no farinaceous food. As a matter of fact, many " insectivors," when 
kept in the same aviary with seed-eating birds, swallow quantities of seed. 

Excepting when feeding, the Missel Thrush spends most of its time either 
in trees or shrubs, it is a somewhat shy bird, though bold in defence of its 
young, it having been known to drive predaceous birds from the vicinity of 
its nest by the impetuous and noisy attacks which it has made upon them. 
Moreover, it always seeks its food in the open fields, not skulking along 
under hedges and shrubs after the manner of the Song Thrush. In captivity 
it soon becomes tame and confiding, and if reared from the nest, it is quite 
as friendly and playful towards its owner as a Canar}-. 

In May, 1886, during a birds'-nesting expedition in Kent, I came across a 
nest of the Missel Thrush containing two young birds, in an old apple 
orchard. With the assistance of the owner, upon whose shoulders I climbed, I 
succeeded in pulling myself up into the lower branches, when it was easy to 

6 The Missel Thrush. 

climb to that which bore the nest : the question now was, how to get the 
young birds into my basket without injury ; however as I leaned over the 
nest, the youngsters quickly settled the difficulty by leaping out and fluttering 
to the earth, screaming loudly the while. What with the old and young 
birds together, the noise was something to be remembered. 

I reared both these birds without the slightest trouble, upon snails (dropped 
into boiling water, taken from their shells, and cut into small pieces,) small 
worms, and a paste made of oat-flour, known as " fig-dust," and fine pea- 
meal ; as they grew older, however, they refused both worms and large snails, 
though they would readily swallow small living snails in their shells. They 
also ate both hawthorn berries and wheat greedily, subsequently ejecting the 
seeds of the former and the tough skin of the latter from the crop with 
considerable force, so that I have frequent!}- found the ejected pellets several 
feet from their cage. 

These two birds proved to be unmistakably a pair, the male having a 
distinctly narrower head, slimmer build, more alert carriage and more master- 
ful disposition ; indeed, after a time, he so tormented his companion, pulling 
out her feathers and scolding whenever she approached him, that when a 
friend took a fancy to her, I gladly gave her away. 

As the male bird gained strength, I gave him, as staple food, a mixture 
of oat-flour, pea-meal, and Spratt's food (crushed dog biscuit), moistened with 
sufficient water to form a crumb-paste ; on this diet he lived, with the addition 
of an occasional insect or earthworm, and throve amazingl}' for nearly' four 
years, never having a day's illness, aud always being ready for a frolic. If 
I put my finger into his cage he would put one foot on it aud thus holding 
it down would flap his wings and hammer it with his bill : when I wished 
to move him from one cage to another, he never attempted to get away until 
I had grasped him firmlj', then indeed he would kick a bit aud utter his 
harsh guttural call. 

At lengtli, in 1890, wlicu my friend was three years and nine mouths 
old, I was persuaded to send him to a sliow. 1)ut, unhappil}-, he who had 
never tasted a particle of flesh was fed entirely on a mixture of fiuel}- minced 
raw beef mixed with breadcrumbs ; the result may be imagined — he had in- 
cessant fits during tlie week of the show, was returned to me in a state of 
apoplex}' and died in a fit about an hour after he reached home. Never give 
raw flesh to any Init predaceous birds. 

Although liand-reared birds ma}- make amusing pets, unless taught by 
a wild bird, they never learn the wild song ; my Missel Thrush only sang 



Song Thrusi 

Plate 2 

The Song Thrush. 7 

two notes, one high, the other low, its song was far behind that of the 

Ox-eye Tit for melody. There is not the least trouble in keeping and taming 

wild Thrushes. They sulk at first, but a few lively worms quickly induce 
them to feed. 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— TURBINE. 

The Song Thrush. 

Turdus musicus, Linn. 

FOUND throughout the Palsarctic Region, but rare in the extreme East, 
generally migratory in Western Europe, though resident in some countries; 
generally distributed throughout the British Islands, though of rare 
occurrence in the Shetlands. In England this bird is a partial migrant, great 
numbers travelling southward late in the autumn but returning to their old haunts 
at the first sign of spring weather ; nevertheless, a considerable number remains 
with us during the winter. 

The adult bird above is deep olive-brown, the wing coverts tipped with 
bright deep buff, under parts mostly white, the cheeks somewhat yellowish, 
streaked with brown ; the breast and sides ochraceous buff, boldly marked with 
fan-shaped black spots ; spots on the white ventral surface of the body more 
elongated, spindle-shaped and less numerous ; bill dark brown, paler at the 
base of the lower mandible ; legs pale brown, iris brown. The female resembles 
the male, but has a slightly broader head and thicker bill. Nestlings differ 
from adults in having the upper parts mottled with buff. 

Wherever there is cover, 3'ou may expect to see the Song Thrush, he is 


8 The Song Thrush. 

fond of shrubberies, hedgerows, and all places which afford partial conceal- 
ment. Watch him in the garden, you will see him running down a path, 
stopping after every few feet to look cautiousl}' around ; now he spies a large 
bush or evergreen upon a bed to right or left and suddenly darting under 
it commences to dig vigorousl}' for worms ; presentl}- he appears again upon 
another path running as before and again disappearing in like manner, he 
rarely remains very long in the open, yet is less skulking than his cousin, 
the Blackbird. 

Sometimes the Song Thrush proceeds b}' a series of hops, but certainly 
not always. He frequently runs as above described, but never walks sedately 
after the manner of a Starling; even when seeking for worms in a meadow 
or on a grass-plot he hops, and so he does when crossing a flower bed ; but 
on a path, I have rarely known this Thrush to move in any other way but 
by running. 

The nest of the Song Thrush is usually built low down in the fork of 
a young tree, a shrub, especially an evergreen, the lower branches of old yew 
trees are also frequently selected as a building site. Occasionall}-, a nest may 
be seen among matted creepers, or even in the upper twigs of a rude wattle 
fence forming the walls of a country cart-shed. In hawthorn hedges, on i\'3^- 
covered walls, among stunted willows by streams, in crevices of rocks, or at 
the roots of a tuft of heather it may also be met with. The formation 
of the nest is somewhat different from that of the other British Thrushes. 
Externally, it is somewhat similar, being formed of slender twigs, roots, grasses, 
dead leaves, and moss ; but internally it has a lining of mud and rotten wood 
or cow dung, so neatly rounded and smoothed off, that it much resembles 
the interior of half a large cocoa-nut shell. This deep smooth cavity is pro- 
duced in the most simple manner, namely ; by the hen-bird squatting down and 
turning round and round in it whilst the lining is soft. 

The number of eggs laid by the Song Thrush varies from three to six, 
but five is the usual number ; where only three eggs are deposited, it is 
probable that the first nest has been taken and a second one built immediatel}-. 
In such cases I have known the new home to be built and lined in two 
days, the first egg being deposited whilst the mud lining was still moist ; but 
the Song Thrush rarel}' builds in less than three daj's. In the case of this 
and all species at the beginning of the Ijreeding season, a commencement 
of building operations is frequently made before the mother is nearl}' ready 
to lay. A nest is started and pulled to pieces, or deserted in an unfinished 
condition ; this playing at building has given careless observers, or such as 

The Song Thrush. 9 

have not noted, year by year, the building of nests by the same species, an 
exaggerated idea of the time required for the construction of bird-homes.* 

The colouring of the eggs of Tiirdits iiiusicus is greenish blue, with distinct 
deep brown (almost black) spots ; usually scattered sparsely over the larger end, 
though sometimes over the whole surface, or only on the smaller end ; spotless 
examples occur also, but rarely, though I have taken entire clutches without marking; 
on the other hand some eggs are heavily blotched, and one which I have 
represented on Plate xxxvii of my " Handbook of British Oology," has these 
blotches so arranged as to form an irregular half-zone towards the larger end. 
The form of the eggs of this species usually varies between a short pear- 
shape and a true oval ; in size they differ a good deal, probably the largest 
eggs are deposited by the older birds. Incubation lasts from fourteen to fifteen days. 

When sitting, the heu Song Thrush is not easily scared from her nest ; 
possibl}' she may dread to uncover her very conspicuous eggs, and may hope 
that her protective colouring and absolute stillness will serve to conceal them ; 
so she sits close, her bill pointed upwards above one side of her castle, her 
tail cocked up over the other, until one may almost put one's hand upon 
her; then suddenly she is gone like a shadow, usually without noise, t and the 
bright spotted eggs are exposed to view. 

Without doubt the comparative difficult}^ of flushing the Song Thrush 
does tend to its preservation : even a Naturalist, unless he is a birds'-nester, 
often fails to notice the nest ; though, when one has acquired eyes to recognize 
birds' homes at a glance, it seems marvellous that so conspicuous an object, 
and one so common in well-wooded country, can fail to be observed. 

The Song Thrush is one of the earliest birds to sing and also go to 
nest ; in unusually mild seasons it will build as early as February, but March 
to August may be considered its breeding season. May and June being the 
months when nests of this bird are most abundant. 

The song of the Throstle or Mavis (as North countrymen call it) is ver}' 
loud ; so much so, that in a room or conservatory its notes are almost 
unbearable ; in the open, however, they are cheerful and inspiring, though 
somewhat monotonous, each phrase being repeated at least four times in 
succession, and occasionally (more especially when the musician has hit 

*Dixon nieutious the fact of the vSong Thrush, after being robbed of its first nest, buiUling in succession 
uo less than three perfect!}- constructed nests within five days. 

t Seebohm states that, when put off her nest " her harsh cries and active motions, with those of her 
mate, awaken the silent woods, and speak most plainly of the anxiety of the birds for their treasure." I have not 
found this to be the case, excepting where the young were almost ready to fly, and only when they have 
uttered a cry of alarm. 

lo The Song Thrush. 

upon something novel), as many as seven or eiglit times. To my 
mind the song is rather joyous and vigorous, than melodious : when heard at 
early dawn as one wakens, it pleases the first time, annoys the second, 
irritates the third, and finally becomes an intolerable nuisance: the Blackbird's 
melody, on the contrary, is always welcome. As one lies in bed trying to 
sleep, the whistle of the Song Thrush resolves itself into short sentences. I 
remember one particular bird which bothered me for weeks ; in all weathers 
he would sit on a tree, within sight of my bedroom window, shouting as 
follows : — Deal d wet, deal d wet, deal d wet, deal u 'wet ; I do, (pronounced 
dough as if he were trying to say know with a cold), / do, I do, I do; 
U'lidd do it? Ulidd do it 1 Who'd do it? Whdd do it? Pretty dick, pretty dick, 
pretty dick, pretty dick," and so on ad iiaiiscaiii. 

The food of the Song Thrush, when at libert}', consists of insects and 
their larvae or pupae, worms, snails, berries, and seeds ; in the spring and 
summer living food is preferred, but towards autumn and throughout the 
winter, berries and grain when procurable, are devoured, husks and hard 
kernels being ejected some five or ten minutes after the food has been 
swallowed ; thus it is that woody seeds like that of the hawthorn are carried 
far from the parent tree, to spring up and make the unthinking wonder 
whence they came. 

In captivity the Song Thrush sings quite as well as in its native haunts, 
indeed, a good bird often continues his soug from November to the end of 
July ; but if it is to reproduce the wild notes, it must be a wild-caught bird ; 
for a nestling, brouglit up b_v hand, either sings a few short monotonous sing- 
song phrases ; or, if it be a vigorous bird, brought up amongst other feathered 
companions, it shouts out the most deafening, though sometimes comical jumble 
of notes imaginable. My experience of hand-reared birds as compared with 
those caught wild is also unfavourable to the former in other respects, I have 
found them vicious and domineering in an aviarj', dirt}' and wasteful iu a 
cage; the}' are always more wild than a cage-moulted trapped bird. The 
latter, after its first moult, becomes gentle, confiding, and neither wasteful 
nor dirty ; it has even been trusted in an aviar}- with small Finches, and I 
have never .seen it molest tliem. As to the cruelty of caging up wild birds, 
it is more fanciful than real, a bird does not sing when it is unhappy, 
much may, however, be said as regards llie cruelly of rearing birds from tlie 
nest ; the parents' anger and annoj^auce is the least part of it, the bungling 
method of feeding the young, often upon the most unsuitable food, is its 
worst feature. 


The Redwing. ii 

The best staple food for this, and all other insectivorous birds, is composed 
of stale household bread crumbled, mixed with half the quantity of preserved 
yolk of egg, preserved ants' cocoons, and " Century Food," the mixture being 
moistened by the addition of potatoes, boiled the day before, and passed through 
a masher when required for use ; on this mixture with the addition of a few 
insects, or worms, and a little fruit, I have kept Thrushes, and many other birds, 
in perfect health for j-ears ; grocers' currants, which are often recommended, 
should be avoided, they have a tendency to irritate the intestines and often 
produce diarrhoea ; thin slices of apple, over-ripe pears, sweet-water grapes, sweet 
oranges, or ripe strawberries and currants, when in season, are as good as 
anything. In an aviary Thrushes and mau}^ other so-called " soft-billed " birds 
will swallow seed whole, and it seems to agree wonderfully well with them, 
rendering their flesh firm and their plumage glossy ; but to feed a Thrush on 
bread and hempseed alone is the height of folly, and usually results in the early 
death of the captive. 

This, like most of the British Thrushes, has been bred in aviaries and even 
in cages of about the size of an ordinary rabbit hutch. 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— TURDIN^. 

The Redwing. 

Tiinlns iliacKS, lylNN. 

THIS, the smallest British Thrush, breeds from the Arctic circle through- 
out the Palaearctic region, and winters in Western and Southern Europe 
and Northern Africa ; it visits the Volga islands when on migration. West- 
ward it has straggled to the Canaries and Madeira. In Asia it has wintered 
in Persia, Turkestan and N W. India, and in Siberia as far as Lake Baikal. 


12 TlIK Rf.dwixg. 

Mr. Seebohm found it in the valley of the Petchora as far North as latitude 
68", he observes: — "The Redwing frequents the birch region and the upper 
zone of the pine region, occurring in limited numbers South of the Arctic 
circle in many places where these trees are found, in South Norway and 
Sweden, and on the Russian shores of the Baltic. It is the most northerly 
in its range of any of the Thrushes, and occasionally wanders as far as 

To the British Islands the Redwing is a regular winter visitant, arriving 
on our Eastern coasts either towards the end of October or earl}' in November; 
it is supposed to linger longest in the Hebrides, the last examples probabl}' 
leaving us during the month of April. The assertions which have, from time 
to time, been made, that this species has remained to breed in Great Britain, 
are not satisfactor}^ neither the birds or eggs having been secured as evidence 
of the fact. 

The Redwing, when in breeding plumage, is, next to the Blackbird, the 
most strikingly coloured of our Tlirushes ; its upper surface is olive brown ; 
a clear creamy white eye-brow stripe extends backwards to the nape ; wing- 
coverts with pale tips ; the under surface is buff, gradually fading off into almost 
pure white on the belly ; the breast and throat broadly streaked with dark 
brown ; the flanks and under wing-coverts chestnut red, spotted with deep 
brown. The sexes are very similar, the j-oung, however, differ in having 
their upper and under surfaces spotted. In general appearance the Redwing 
is like a small Song Thrush, but its whitish eye-stripe and red flanks give 
it a ver}' distinctive character ; when seen from the front it has a curious 
resemblance to a frog. 

Soon after their arrival in this country Redwings maj' sometimes be 
seen, even in our suburban gardens, feeding at twilight upon the berries of 
the hawthorn. I remember on one occasion, chancing to look out shortl}' 
before dusk at ni}' garden, I was puzzled to see the entire length of a thick 
hawthorn hedge which closed in the end of my plot of ground covered with 
moving shadows. I ran for a field glass and discovered that no less than 
thirty Redwings were fluttering up and down like huge moths in front of 
this hedge, eagerly snatching off and swallowing the berries. The following 
day I discovered that an unusually fine crop of haws had almost entirely- 

Seebohm says that " The favourite haunt of the Redwing is a sheltered 

•The I)ircls were clearly distitif^iisliable with the glass as ReJwings, not Fieldfares, the latter arrived 
some weeks later and found hardly a lierry left. 

The Redwing. 13 

valley down wliicli a little brooklet runs, with the trees scattered here and there 
and tall hedgerows of thorn and hazel. The}' are very partial to small parks 
thickly timbered and studded with clumps of white thorn trees, with here 
and there a cluster of hollies or a dense shrubbery, whither they repair at 
nightfall to roost." 

In wooded districts the Redwing usually builds in bushes or low-growing 
trees, but in more desolate regions a low fence, a hollow between stones, 
or a sloping bank serve as a nesting-site. The nest itself is a neat structure 
formed of plaited twigs, grass and reindeer-moss, plastered inside with mud or 
clay, and lined with fine grasses and root-fibre. The number of eggs varies 
from four to six, some writers giving the former, and some the latter, as 
the usual number. In colour they are pale green, either finely and closely 
streaked with reddish brown, like small specimens of some Blackbird's eggs, 
or zoned with brown blotches ; but, as with other Thrushes, eggs are some- 
times found of a uniform green colour. 

When the nest is approached, but especially when it contains young birds, 
the Redwing becomes much excited, flying angrily round the intruder aud 
snapping its bill after the manner of its kind. It frequently produces two 
broods in a season. 

The food of the Redwing consists preferably of insects, worms and snails, 
but when frost and snow deprive it of these it feeds on various berries, more 
particularly those of the service tree aud hawthorn; it is distinctly more insectivorous 
in its tastes than other Thrushes, nevertheless in confinement it thrives well 
upon the same soft food. 

One winter a bird-catcher brought me a bag, containing six Redwings 
and a Fieldfare which he had just caught. I would not, however, be persuaded 
to take the whole of them, but selecting two of the Redwings (which fortunately 
proved to be a pair) and the Fieldfare, I sent the man away. The Red- 
wings I turned loose in an unheated aviary with other British birds. At 
first the new-comers were somewhat wild, but they soon settled down in 
their new home. They never showed the slightest uneasiness at the season of 
migration, as I had been informed they would do, but early in the year assumed 
such rich colouring, that Naturalists who saw them in my aviary, expressed 
astonishment at the beaut}' of their plumage. Very early the male began to 
record his song, but usually in the morning only ; in the evening its call- 
note — a soft plaintive whistle, which reminded me of that of the American 
Blue-bird, was all that I heard at that time ; later, however, he began to slug 
out loud. 

14 The Fieldfare. 

As an aviary bird, I found the Redwing ornamental, and most inoflfensive, 
but by no means lively ; it would sit in one place on the earth without 
moving for half an hour at a time, still as a breathing statue — a frog in 
behaviour and appearance ; but, throw a spider or a smooth-skinned caterpillar 
into the aviary, and, like that Batrachian, it was instantly alert. In spite of 
its beaut}' I should imagine that the Redwing, if kept in a cage, would be 
intolerable ; after two ^-ears I wearied of ni}' pair, and sold them for a small 
sum to a friend, who immediately entered them for a show and carried off 
a first prize with them. Poor Redwings ! I fear that their life after the}' 
left my home was not an enviable one. 

Although the breeding of the Redwing in Great Britain needs confir- 
mation, there seems to be no reason why it should not be possible, inasmuch 
as it has been proved that stragglers have remained with us throughout the 
summer. It has been known to nest in the Faroes. 

Family— TURDID.^. Subfaviily— TURD I N.^. 

The Fieldfar?:. 

Turdus pilaris, LiNN. 

RESPECTING the Geographical distribution of this species, one cannot do 
better tlian quote Scebolim. he says: — -"A regular winter visitant to the 
British Islands, the Fieldfare is commonlj' distributed over the cultivated 
districts, and as far on the uplands as the mountain farms extend. The 
arrival of Fieldfares in Scotland is usually noticed first in the eastern counties, 
as it is quite natural to expect it would be, for their path in autumn is 
soulli and .south-westwards. A few birds are said to be found on the Orkneys 
thnnighoul the year, but they do not breed there. On the Hebrides the Fieldfare 













The Fieldfare. 15 

does not arrive till mid-winter, and is onl}'- found on the farms and pastures 
— in the little oases of cultivated land so sparingly scattered amongst the wide- 
stretching moorland wastes. In Ireland these birds also arrive late, and are 
found commonly distributed over those districts suitable to their habits and 
needs — the cultivated tracts. Fieldfares have been said to have bred in the 
British Islands ; but until definite proofs are forthcoming it is not safe to admit 
the truth of the statement, the birds being very liable to be confounded with 
Missel-Thrushes by careless observers. The Fieldfare has a somewhat more 
southerly breeding-range than the Redwing. It breeds in the Arctic circle, 
extending up to, and occasionally beyond, the limit of forest growth, and in 
north -temperate Europe as far South and West as the basin of the Baltic, and 
throughout Siberia as far East as the watershed of the Yenesay and the Lena. 
Its occurrence in Iceland is doubtful,* but it has been occasionally met with 
on the Faroes. It winters in Southern Europe, occurring very rarely in the 
Spanish peninsula, but crossing the Mediterranean to Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, 
and Nubia. In Asia it winters in Turkestan and Cashmere ; and one specimen 
at least has been obtained at Simla, in the North- West Himalayas." 

The Fieldfare in breeding plumage is slaty-grey on the upper parts with 
the exception of the mantle which is chestnut brown, and the wings and tail, 
which are dark brown ; the head is streaked with black ; the throat and breast are rich 
golden brown, spotted and streaked with blackish brown ; the flanks are similar, but 
more orange internally ; the centre of the belly is pure white and unspotted ; the bill 
yellowish ; feet black ; iris deep brown. The female greatly resembles the male, 
but the young on leaving the nest are spotted with buff on the back, though after 
the first moult they much resemble their parents. 

The Fieldfare's season of migration varies somewhat in accordance with the 
milder or colder temperature of its breeding-haunts ; in like manner its time of 
departure from our shores depends greatly upon the appearance of spring weather ; 
there is no defined appointed time for its migration. Cold and scarcity of food in 
its native home represent the voice of nature calling upon it to seek comfort in 
somewhat milder regions ; then again, the return of warmth and living food remind 
it that the season of love is at hand, and the inherited habit of centuries teaches 
this bird to seek for the fulfilment of its hopes in the land of its birth ; doubtless 
this is largely the cause of the so-called migratory instinct in all birds, the weaker 
and more sensitive to cold and hunger being the first to migrate ; therefore it is 
that the Redwing precedes the Fieldfare. 

It is easy to distinguish a Fieldfare from a Missel Thrush when it is on the 

•There seems, however, to be very little question that this species is an occasional Icelandic visitant. — A.G.B. 


i6 The Fieldfare. 

ground, for, although it frequently associates with tlie latter 1)ird, its grey rump, 
thrown into strong relief by the dark wings and tail, looks almost white. This 
species, however, is far less frequently seen upon the earth than our native 
Thrushes. Its favourite resort is a berry-laden hawthorn, upon which it will eat its 
fill unless disturbed, when with a clatter of chacks and chicks it shoots off in a 
straight line towards another of nature's restaurants. 

Among the birches and pines of Nonvay the F'ieldfares breed in colonies, in 
the former the nests are said to be situated in a cleft between the trunk and a 
large branch, but further north these birds become less gregarious, and their nests 
are then situated in low^ bushes, heaps of firewood, on fences and similar places, 
after the fashion of our Blackbird ; whilst on the bare tundras of Siberia they 
select a hollow under the grassy edge of a cliflF or bank for a breeding-site, like 
the Ring-Ouzel. 

The nest is very like that of the Blackbird, externally it is constructed 
of coarse dry grass, sometimes interwoven with birch twigs and a little moss, 
plastered inside with mud, and thickly lined with fine grass. The number of 
eggs varies from three to seven, but usually from four to six ; according to 
Seebohm, they vary more than those of an}^ of our British Thrushes ; but I 
think most of those which I have seen could be matched among the almost 
endless variations of our Blackbirds' eggs ; their ground-colour is either paler 
or deeper green, blotched, mottled, and speckled with reddish brown, sometimes 
over the entire surface, but more frequently concentrated at the larger end. 
The markings of some examples (as with our Blackbird) are indistinct, evenly 
distributed, in others they are few and rich brown upon a deep blue ground 
(a variety which I have not seen in eggs of the Blackbird ; though they are 
sometimes as blue as those of the Song Thrush). 

The food of this species consists in summer of worms, insects, as well as their 
larvae and pupce and small wild fruits ; in winter, principallj' of berries, especially 
those of the hawthorn, also insects, snails and worms when procurable, and seeds 
of grain and grasses. 

The Fieldfare is a poor songster. He rarely sings excepting in the breeding 
season, and his performance consists of a wild warble, at times interrupted by 
chattering somewhat similar to that of the Starling. The example which I had 
for two years never sang at all, but occasionally uttered a harsh guttural sound like 
that of the Missel Thrush. 

As a cage bird the Fieldfare is most uninteresting, he sotm becomes lame, and 
if allowed to bathe, keeps his plumage in beautiful condition ; but, excepting for 
show purposes, is only an expense : like all Thrushes, he is a large eater, and 



,♦ I 




White's Thrush. 17 

therefore needs frequent attention. I parted Avitli mine when I sold my Redwings, 
and have never wished to keep another. 

I fed him on the same food as m}^ other insectivorous species, adding a few 
worms, snails, caterpillars, and berries when obtainable; he was always in perfect 
health, even when moulting, and never showed restlessness at the seasons of 
migration ; in fact, he was one of the steadiest and most apathetic birds I ever 

His name has been corrupted to "Felfer," "Felt," "Pigeon Felt," or 
"Blue Felt" by country folk. 

Family— TURD ID ^. Stibjamily— TURD J N^. 

White's Thrush. 

Turdiis varius, PallAS. 

This bird, also known as " White's Ground- Thrush " and placed in the genus 
Geocichla, is only an accidental straggler to our shores ; about a dozen 
examples having been obtained in the southern and midland counties of 
England and two in Ireland. Therefore, although, from the writer's standpoint, 
it has no more claim to be called British, than any foreigner stranded on the 
British coast has to be called an Englishman, its claim to the title is stronger 
than in the case of the " Black-Throated," the " Rock Thrush," and many other 
species usually included in the British list on the strength of single examples 
which have come to hand. 

White's Ground-Thrush is a native of South-central and South-eastern Siberia 
and of North China : at the approach of winter it migrates to South Japan, South 
China, the Philippines and even to Sumatra. The first example obtaiued in Great 
Britain was shot in Hampshire in January, 1828 ; and, being supposed to be new to 

1 8 White's Thrush. 

science, was named Tiudus ivhitei by Eyton, in hononr of White, of Selbourne : 
thus the trivial name of White's Thrush was first applied to it. 

The upper surface of this species is ochraceous brown, with black tips to the 
feathers; the wing feathers are darker and tipped with buff ; the tail has fourtem 
feathers, the four central ones ochraceous brown, the others dark brown, all tipped 
with white ; the under surface is white, tinged with buff on the breast, and boldly 
spotted with black crescent-shaped markings : the bill is brown, the lower mandible 
paler; the feet yellowish brown, the iris dark brown. The sexes are supposed to 
be alike. In size, this species rather excels the Missel-Thrush. 

The uidification of White's Thrush was observed in 1872, at Ningpo, b}' the 
late Consul Swinhoe : the nest was roughly built, and situated on a fork of a 
horizontal piue-brauch ; its outside consisted of dead rushes, grasses, a few twigs, 
dead leaves and a little moss ; it was thickly plastered with mud, amongst which 
were fragments of some green weed ; the inside, like that of the Blackbird, was 
thickly lined with mud, covered with an inner lining of coarse rootlets and sedgy 

Three eggs only were in the nest ; but the complete clutch would probably 
number four or five ; Mr. Seebohm, who secured the nest and two of the eggs 
for his collection, thus describes them : — " They resemble those of the Missel- 
Thrush ; but the ground-colour is slightl}^ paler, and the spots much finer, more 
numerous, and more evenly distributed." 

The flight of White's Thrush, unlike that of our common species, is said to 
be " very undulating, like that of the Green Woodpecker, and low, often settling 
on the ground, and only making choice of a tree when it happened to pass under 
one, into which it rose almost vertically." It is more strictl}' insectivorous than 
the true species of Tardus, living principally upon insects, their larvae and pupae, 
spiders, worms, and such mollusca as are found in moist situations. In China it 
is known to feed also on berries, especiall}' those of the banyan ; nevertheless 
most of its food is obtained on the ground amongst decaj-ed vegetation, in ditches, 
under bushes, or among the roots of trees. 

It is not known whether this species has any song ; its call-note is said to be 
"a soft plaintive see, audible at a long distance," and when on migration it some- 
times " utters a melodious whistling cry." 

As a cage-bird, White's Thrush would probably prove an utter failure ; 
whether it sings or not, it can hardly be an industrious performer, moreover it 
would probably pass much of its time on the floor of its cage or aviary. 

I .L 


1 1 







r^' f 

Blackbird, i ^ 

Plate 6. 

The Blackbird. 19 

Family ~ TURDID^. Subfamily - TURD I N^. 

The Blackbird. 

Turdus iiicnda, LiNN. 

THIS handsome Thrush is generally distributed over nearly every country of 
Europe and North Africa. In Norway at about 67° N. lat. it appears to 
reach its highest breeding range ; it also occurs in Asia Minor, Palestine, 
Persia, Turkestan, Afghanistan and Cashmere, being somewhat larger in the three 
last mentioned countries, and, on that account distinguished by Mr. Seebohm as a 
race to which he has given the name of Meriila jiiaxima. In Great Britain it is 
generall}' distributed and partially resident, but in the Shetland Islands it occurs 
only in the winter ; and, in the Hebrides its appearance is irregular, although on 
some of tliem it is recognized as a rare resident. In the southern counties in 
winter its numbers are largely increased by immigrants from the north. 

The adult male is entirely glossy black in plumage ; the bill in young birds 
golden ochreous, gradually becoming deep orange with age, feet brownish black, 
iris hazel, edges of eyelids golden yellow. The adult female, when young, is deep 
brown ; somewhat rufous on the throat and breast, which are streaked with smoky 
black ; the bill brown and considerably broader and shorter than in the male ; as 
the bird grows older, the gape becomes more or less edged with ochre yellow, the 
black throat-streaks become more pronounced and the chin sometimes becomes 
whitish. In the nestling birds most of the feathers have pale shaft-streaks, and 
those of the upper parts have dark tips ; whilst those of the under parts have dark 
bars ; in other respects they resemble young hen birds : young males are said to 
be slightly more dusky than females ; but if such a difference exists, I never could 
satisfy myself of the fact in the case of the young birds which, from time to time, 
I have hand-reared : the more active and pugnacious disposition and narrower crown 
would be far better guides in the selection of cock nestlings. 

Talking of pugnacity, it is pre-eminently a characteristic of the Blackbird, 
and especially at the pairing season : the Song-Thrush is combative enough, but 
the Blackbird will fight to the bitter end. I remember, on one occasion when in 
my garden, hearing a violent rustling and flapping of wings and supposing that 


20 The Blackbird. 

some unfortunate Thrush or Blackbird had been seized by a cat, I slipped up as 
quickly and quitely as possible to the scene of the disturbance ; there I saw two 
cock Blackbirds firmly clutching one another and tearing out feathers b}- the 
mouthful, violently flapping the while and so intent upon murder that, until I 
was almost within reach of them, they were not aware of my approach ; then just 
as I was meditating a double capture, they saw me, and simultaneous!}' letting go 
of one another, flew off in opposite directions with loud chattering cries. 

Fighting is not the only sin of which the Blackbird is guilt)' ; some individuals 
of the species have ovivoroits tendencies : at a house where I was once sta3-ing, a 
pair of Blackbirds had built a nest on a trained plum-tree ; as usual I had inter- 
ested myself in noting the time occupied in building and in the deposition of the 
eggs : on the third da}' the nest was completed and the hen settled down in it 
for the night. I rose early in those days, frequently taking a country ramble 
before breakfast ; that morning, before starting, I looked in the nest, and there 
was the first egg ; but, when I returned an hour later, the shell alone lay on the 
earth below the nest. Determined to discover the thief, if possible, I took a pair 
of opera-glasses upstairs that night, and, getting out of bed about 6 a.m., I 
waited and watched : presently I heard the cock Blackbird singing, and then he 
flew on to the end wall of the garden — "Chink, cliinka chuck, chuck chuck, cliack ; 
swee ; siuce.'' Out flew the hen and on to the nest went the old wretch, deliber- 
ately pecked and picked up the egg, and devoured the contents, dropping the 
shell as before. This trick was repeated again the following day, and then the 
hen deserted her nest. 

In all well-wooded districts the Blackbird is extremely abundant, and where 
wood and water are combined it is so common that, on one occasion, I came across 
nearly forty nests in the course of a single morning's ramble. In suburban 
gardens it is also common, but not nearly so much so as the Song-Thrush : tliis 
can be easily proved, not merely by the numbers seen, for with so skulking a bird 
many might be overlooked ; but, by the relative number of nests built in such 
places in spring, and the largely disproportionate number of Thrushes trapped in 

The nest of the Blackbird is built in the most diverse situations, such as 
hedges, shrubs, trees, faggot-stacks, holes in walls or rocks, niches in sides of 
gravel or chalk-pits, or even in very low banks ; its favourite sites are perhaps 
in whattle fences overgrown with bramble or ivy, in evergreen shrubs, or on 
branches of fruit-trees trained against walls. It is a bulky cup-sliaped structure, 
usually placed upon a foundation of twigs, dead leaves, rags, paper, sometimes a 
draggled cjuill feather or two, and mud ; the form of the outside walls varies 

The Blackbird. 21 

according to the position of the nest ; this is constrncted of stalks of grass and 
twigs intertwined and compacted with moss ; the inside of the cup plastered with 
mud in pellets, almost or entirely concealed b}' dead leaves, rootlets and fine grass ; 
occasionall}^ the mud plastering is entirely absent, but the onl}^ two nests having 
this peculiarity which I have seen, I met with on the same morning ; one of these 
I retained for my collection. 

The eggs are marvellously variable, both in size, shape, and colouring, ; they 
number from four to six, but usually five. The following are some of the more 
distinct varieties which I have taken: — i, Greenish blue, precisely like some eggs 
of the Song-Thrush in tint ; but when examined through a lens, showing very 
minute and indistinct reddish longitudinal dashes over the whole surface. 2, 
Greyish olive, showing (under a lens) extremely fine dust-like brownish speckling, 
a few black dots near the small end, this form somewhat reminds one of some 
eggs of the Jay. 3. Large and broad, pale chalky blue, with indistinct rusty spots 
and dots scattered sparsel}^ over the entire surface, the larger half sprinkled with 
little rugosities. 4. Much elongated, pale blue, mottled all over with pale rusty 
reddish. 5. Short and broad, greenish blue, mottled and blotched all over with 
reddish-brown. 6. Very broad ; pale chalky blue, speckled sparsely all over, and 
heavily blotched at both ends, with rust-reddish and greyish lavender. 7. Similar, 
from same nest, but only heavily blotched at the larger end. 8. Pale sandy 
brownish with very indistinct rust-reddish marbling all over : this is a small egg, 
evidently laid by a young bird. 9. Pale greenish blue sparsely but boldly spotted 
from the shoulder (or larger terminal third) and heavily spotted and clouded at 
the larger end with rusty brown leopard-like markings. 10. Pale greenish, so 
covered with indistinct reddish smears and speckles that the green is almost lost. 
II. Deep blue-green, boldly spotted with rusty brown, which collects into a large 
patch at the small end. 12. Flesh-whitish, densely speckled and marbled with 
rust red. 13. I also have a chalk}^ white egg, with faint indications (visible 
through a lens) of olivaceous mottling. This egg was given to me by a lady 
friend and was obtained by her from an ordinary nest, at Wateringbury, near 
Maidstone. Of the above (which I have selected for description from a picked 
series of forty-four in my egg-collection) Nos. i, 2, 3, 8, 12, and 13 are all rare 
varieties, not very characteristic of the species: possibly No. i, which is not 
unlike a very deep-coloured Starling's egg, may, as Howard Saunders suggests, 
be the result of a union between the Song-Thrush and Blackbird, the fact that 
these two species do sometimes interbreed in a wild state being thoroughly well 
established ; but if so, it would be laid by a hybrid hen, for it is not likely that 
union with another species would affect the eggs laid by a pure-bred bird. 


The Blackbird. 

In the winter of 1894-5 a bird was caught in one of ni}' traps which I firmly 
believe was a hybrid Thrush-Blackbird : when first captured it was verj- dirt}', 
and I then supposed it to be an old hen Blackbird ; but, after a good wash, its 
true colouring came out clearly ; the whole upper parts being deep smoky brown, 
the cliin and throat white streaked with dull black ; the breast, in certain lights, 
showing traces of the true Song-Thrush spotting ; the ])ill deep orange with the 
basal half of the culmen black ; feet yellowish horn-brown. 

This bird, of which Mr. Frohawk made 
a careful sketch, became ver}' tame in a few 
weeks and I should certainly have kept it 
up to the present lime, had not a friend, 
who had given much attention to British 
cage-birds, visited me and asked me wh}- I 
was keeping a hen Blackbird. I pointed out 
the orange bill, the extent of white on the 
throat, the heavy black streaking and ill- 
defined breast spots, and he admitted that 
he had never seen a similar hen Blackbird. 
Unfortunately I wanted the cage, in which 
I had kept this supposed hybrid, for nn- 
Mocking-bird (which I found too tj-ranuical for an aviarj') therefore I gave 
the Thrush its libert}' : but, on the following da}', one of my neighbours was 
walking round my garden, when a bird in an adjoining plot began to sing a 
most marvellous song, whicl: my neighbour cliaracterized as neither like that of 
Blackbird or Song Thrush, but a combination of both. I have no doubt, as I 
told liim, that my recently liberated bird was the singer. 

The song of the Blackbird is quite unlike that of any other British Thrush, 
clear, mellow and melodious, it is one of the finest productions of our feathered 
choir : it however varies wonderfully in merit in different individuals, and no two 
Blackbirds sing precisely alike. The finest singers are rarely heard, their per- 
formance is continuous, flowing, ever changing, somewhat reminding one of the 
Blackcap's song ; most Blackbirds, however, sing set phrases, more or less 
plaintive but always vigorous in character. 

Frequently, in the middle of its song, a Blackbird stops abruptly and 
ridicules its own performances, singing over the last phrase in a minor key and 
following it up with derisive caricatures ending in meaningless squeaks : some- 
times it pauses abruptly and (perhaps for five or ten minutes) repeats, at 
intervals its dismal car-splitting call note — a shrill reedy /stii ; or it will break off" 

The Blackbird. 23 

into its nois}' go-to-roost rattle — " Chink, c/uuk, chink, chink, cliink ; chacka, chack- 
a-rack, cliack, chack, chack, cliack ; chuck, chuck, chuck." Passing tlirough shrubberies 
at twilight, this good-night greeting may be heard on all sides ; sometimes a 
little varied, but usually commencing with "chink" and terminating with 
" chuck " : at dawn it frequentl}' leaves out the harsh " chack." 

The flight of the Blackbird is usually very direct, it ma}' be seen passing 
over garden after garden with steady regular beat of wing, until perchance it 
nears some favourite tree, when its course is almost imperceptibly changed to an 
upward slant which lands it on its chosen branch ; when suddenly flushed from 
the nest, the flight is usually direct at first, but with a rapid swerving to right 
or left and a return to roost in some neighbouring cover. When it alights, 
the Blackbird throws its tail up almost at right angles to the body, stretches the 
neck and holds its legs wide apart ; this gives it a wonderfully alert and 
attentive aspect. In this respect it somewhat resembles Magpies, or Jays of the 
genus Cyaiiocorax, which always throw up the tail w^hen they alight, but assume 
the attitude of attention as this appendage drops back to its ordinary level. 

Although usually a very skulking bird, seeking its food mostly under hedge- 
rows, in ditches, or among shrubs and bushes ; when it has young to feed the 
Blackbird may often be seen among Starlings and Thrushes upon our lawns, busily 
engaged in the pursuit of worms. In fields of turnip or cabbage it may also be 
seen seeking for worms and caterpillars ; for the common garden snail and slugs 
the Blackbird seems to care less than does the Song-Thrush, but the prettily 
banded hedge-snails it delights in : like all insectivorous birds, its favourite morsels 
are spiders, insects and their grubs. Mr. Frohawk tells me that, in the late 
autumn, he has watched a Blackbird slowly hopping down a garden path and 
carefully turning over every fallen leaf in its search for insect food. Unfortunately 
for the Blackbird's peace of mind, it is not exclusively insectivorous ; it is also 
to some extent graminivorous and largely frugivorous, being especially fond of 
strawberries, in pursuit of which it often loses its life at the hands of the short- 
sighted fruit-grower ; it also devours a good many currants, gooseberries, cherries, 
and peas in their season, whilst the raspberry, blackberry and sloe are not 
despised. Late in autumn when the more pleasant fruits are becoming scarce, the 
Blackbird turns its attention to hips and haws, as well as the berries of the ivy 
and mistletoe. 

Upon the earth the Blackbird proceeds by a series of hops, then a pause at 
attention and on again : in its actions it strongly reminds one of the Robin ; but 
it does not appear, like our little Christmas favourite, to suffer from chronic 
epilepsy, fidgets, St. \'itus's dance, or whatever it is which makes the latter give 


24 The Blackbird. 

that absurd little duck every half miuute, when sitting on a branch : no, the 
Blackbird is far too sedate for such frivolity. 

The Blackbird is especially bold in defence of its j'oung ; even when the 
nest contains eggs alone, I have known this bird to sit so close, that it has been 
caught upon the nest and ruthlessly killed by its heartless captor. To some 
creatures having the outward form of man, a few cherries, hastily swallowed and 
forgotten, are of more importance than months of woodland music : unhappilj', 
many such mere animals are trusted with firearms, and do their utmost to destroy 
the farmer's and fruit grower's most useful and industrious assistants ; either not 
knowing or not caring to know, that the birds are only taking wages in kind for 
the fruit which they have worked hard to save from the ravages of insect enemies. 

As a cage-bird, the Blackbird is without a rival among our Thrushes ; clean, 
lively, pleasing both in form and in his simple colouring, readil}^ tamed, easilj' 
kept in health for years, it is no wonder that he is a general favourite : but, if he 
is to turn out a good songster, he must be caught, not reared from the nest. A 
hand-reared bird never sings the wild song, and hardly ever pleases with his per- 
formance ; indeed I have only known one bird (reported to be hand-reared, and 
fed upon sopped bread only) which really had an attractive song. Of the numbers 
which I reared when I first began to stud}^ aviculture, the best singer never got 
beyond six notes of a dismal psalm-tune. On the other hand, ever}' trapped cock 
BlackVjird, if properly fed, is sure to sing the true wild song sooner or later ; 
usually in the first spring after his capture. Hand-reared birds should be taught 
by trapped wild birds. 

Like many other birds when first caught, the Blackbird often refuses to feed 
at all the first day ; and, if in good condition when caged, he maj- continue to 
sulk for a day or two longer ; but even a sulky Blackbird cannot resist the 
attractions of a lively mealworm, spider, or even earthworm, and when he once 
begins to eat, he will continue ; so that there is never much difficultj- in inducing 
him to cmpt}' his pan of soft food. The latter, as already hinted previously, should 
be largely farinaceous, but with an admixture of yolk of egg and ants' cocoons ; 
slices of apple or pear, and berries, as well as insects and worms, should also be 
given from time to time ; but meat ;/t7vv excepting as a purgative, if }ou value 
the health of j-our bird : if given, it will assuredly produce diarrhoea, resulting 
sooner or later in cramp, or fits. I tried it with fatal results, for several years. 

In 1905 and 1906 I bred hj'brids between the female of this species and the 
male of the Himala^'an Grey-winged Ouzel (Tiodus (Mintla) houlboulj; the males 
sooty black, with a red-brown wing-patch, the feuiales variable, either almost 
wholl}- olivaceous brown or else nearly resembling the female of the Indian bird. 


The Ring-Ouzel. 25 

Family— TURD I D^. Subfamily— TURBINE. 

The Ring-Ouzel. 

Turdus torquatus, L,INN. 

UPON the Continent of Europe this bird is a summer visitant to the more 
desolate portions of the pine districts ; it nevertheless breeds freel\- in 
the mountainous regions of the South. Eastward its range appears to be 
limited by the Ural Mountains. It winters in the lowlands and alpine districts of 
South Europe, in North Africa, Asia Minor, and Persia. 

In Great Britain it is rarely resident ; indeed during the winter it is usually the 
only British Thrush which is absent. Though in mild seasons it has been known 
to remain with us up to Christmas, as a rule the Ring- Ouzel leaves us in 
September or October, returning in April to breed. Although far more abundant 
as a breeding species in the wild moors and mountainous districts of the 
North, it is known to have bred in rocky parts of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, 
Hampshire, Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, Warwick, Leicester, Gloucestershire, Mon- 
mouthshire, Wales, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire : in the 
wilder portions of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Wales it breeds freely. 

The general colour of the male Ring- Ouzel is a dark sooty brown inclining 
to black, with the exception of a broad white crescentic gorget ; the wing feathers 
edged externall}' with grey ; under wing-coverts and axillaries mottled with grey 
and white : bill 5'ellowish, black at the tip ; feet brownish black ; iris dark brown. 
The female paler and browner than the male and with somewhat brownish gorget. 
Birds of the year have broad pale margins to the feathers of the under surface, 
the gorget in the male is brownish and in the female barely discernible. 
Nestlings have the feathers of the back and breast barred with black and pale 
brown, and the wing-coverts tipped with ochraceous buff. 

The nest of this species is not at all unlike that of the Blackbird, but it is 
somewhat looser in construction : externall}^ it is formed of dry bents and grass, 
frequently intertwined with twigs of heather or larch and compacted with dead 
leaves, moss and mud ; inside it is lined with clay or mud, concealed by a thick 
inner lining of fine grass. It is almost always built on the ground, most 

26 The Ring-Ouzel. 

frequeutl}- amongst ling on the sharp edge of an embankment ; also under furze, 
or among heather upon steep declivities, very rarely in a low bush or tree. 

The eggs number from four to five, usually four, and are extremel}- similar 
to those of the Blackbird and F^ieldfare ; indeed, unless the collector takes them 
himself, I do not for a moment believe that he could be assured of their origin. 
I obtained eggs from two nests in Kent, in both cases flushing the bird from 
them ; she flew off with harsh cries — "c/iack-c/iack-c/iack''* after the manner of a 
Blackbird, but did not go far away ; probably had the nest contained 3-oung she 
would have flown round ni}' head with loud cries after the manner of the Missel ; but I have rarely found birds so devoted to their eggs as to their young, 
unless they have actually commenced incubation. I found my second nest 
amongst a clump of heather growing under a furze bush, on the edge of a wild 
plantation bounding part of a large park at Tunstall, near Sittingbourne, on May 
17th, 1879: the nest unfortunately only contained one My first nest was 
found on the margin of an unreclaimed bit of heatherj' moorland in the Stock- 
bury Valle}' under a straggling tuft of ling overhanging the edge of a steep 
embankment at the side of a little frequented road, on Ma}- 24th, 1875 ; ^^^^ 
nest contained two eggs. In both cases I omitted to take the nest, and 
consequently this is a desideratum to my collection ; probabl}' the birds continued 
to utilize them. 

The habits of the Ring-Ouzel are very similar to those of the Blackbird ; 
its flight is ver}' similar and its trick of throwing up the tail as it alights, its 
method of .searching for food, characterized by a sh\-, alert, almost nervous 
manner, and its harsh cry uttered when the safety of its nest is threatened and at 
roosting time. Even its song bears some similarity to that of its ebonj- relative 
though harsher in character and in some respects more nearly approaching that 
of the Song Thrush ; its habit of interrupting and criticizing its own performance 
is also eminently characteristic of the Blackbird : its call-note is a thin piercing 
whistle, like that of our other Thrushes. The harsh gut rr/i, characteristic of the 
Missel and Song Thrushes, can hardly be the true call note, since they certaiul)^ 
call to one another in the still more unpleasant whistled note above mentioned. 

The food of the Ring-Ouzel consists of worms, slugs, snails, insects and 
their grubs, man}' kinds of berries, small fruits such as currants, gooseberries, 
blackberries, cherries, grapes and also plums. 

Seebohm says: — "A true bird of the wilderness, it prefers the deepest 
solitudes that our land afifords. Truly, indeed, the Ring-Ouzel's home is a wild 

•This somiil is iiMiall\ remlcred t)_v tlic word tiik: but lliere is a tliicknes.s a1>out tin- inilial Iftirr hctirr 
rrprestiiti-d Iiy </;: the iiliniisl metallic flint splittiii); sound which I rciidi-r </;/«*. in the account of the Hl.ick- 
hird, has been iucorrecll) written as "/;;;A " : u ISlackbird is as likel) to sav ••/«<//<•" as "pink." 

The Ring-Ouzel. 27 

and romantic one. You will first make his acquaintance where the heath begins, 
where the silver birch trees are scattered amongst the rock fragments, and the 
gorse bushes and stunted thorn and bracken are the last signs of more lowland 
vegetation. The scenery gets wilder, but still the bird is 3'our companion ; he 
flits from rock to rock before 3'ou, or, b}- making long detours, returns to the 
place whence you flushed him, uttering his loud, harsh, and discordant call-notes. 
The hills of Derbyshire are one of his favourite haunts ; almost on the very 
summit of Kinder Scout, the highest peak of the High Peak, nearly two 
thousand feet above the sea level, the Ring-Ouzels rear their young." 

I cannot speak personally as to the Ring-Ouzel's suitability for cage life ; 
so far as I have been able to judge, from the specimens occasionally exhibited at 
bird shows, it appears to be as easily tamed as our other Thrushes ; but it is 
possible that these specimens may have been hand-reared birds I certainly never 
heard one of them attempt to sing. There are several reasons for this dumb 
behaviour in captive birds ; some that will not sing at all in a cage, warble 
splendidly in an aviar}- ; then, insufficiently nourishing, or unnatural food may be 
the cause, the first from its lowering effect and the second by making the 
prisoner feel positively' ill. Birds which are accustomed, when wild, to feed 
almost entirely on insects and fruit, are provided at our shows with a mess of 
finely grated raw beef and bread crumbs ; on such hopelessly unnatural diet, it is 
no marvel, not merel}' that they feel disinclined to sing, but if they die before 
their term of punishment is completed. 

With the Ring-Ouzel, in the writer's opinion, the true British " Thrushes," 
so called, should terminate. Other species recorded as belonging to our fauna, 
in works upon the birds of Great Britain, are : — 

Family— TURDW.^. Subfamily— TURDIN^E. 

The Black Throated Thrush. 

Turdus atrigularis, Teimm. 
NTRODUCED, because one young male was shot near Lewes in 1868. 


28 Rock Thrush, American Robin, Siberian Ground Thrush. 

Family— TURDID^.. Suhfaviily— TURDIN.F.. 

The Rock Thrush. 

Monticola saxatilis. LlN'X. 

ADMITTED, because one specimen was shot at Therfield, Herts., in 1843. 
So far as I can see, there is no more reason for admitting these birds to 
our list than for excluding the following : — 

Family— TURDID.F. Suh family - TL 'RDIN. F. 

The American Robin. 

Turdiis migratorius, LiNN. 

OBTAINED at Dover ; but excluded, on the ground that it may have 
escaped from captivity. In these days of aviculture, even the rarest and 
least suspected birds may have reached our shores in this manner. 

Family— TURDIDAt. Subfamily— TURDLW F. 

The Siberian Ground Thrush. 

Tu) ctus sibiriciis, P.A.LL. 

SOME writers admit, and others exclude this species ; one example only 
having been obtained (on the authority of a dealer) between Guildford 
and Godalming, in the winter of 1860-61. 
Dr. H. O. Forbes says that he on several occasions, during the terrible frost 
of 1894-S, saw two of these birds in his garden at Liverpool, feeding in company 
with Starlings, Sparrows, Thrushes, and Blackbirds : he was quite close, and able 
to identify them with certainty ; he even made an unsuccessful attempt to catch 

In other liranches of Zoology, we should not necessaril}- regard a species 
as British, on the score of one or two examples having been obtained on our 
shores: the fact of tlicir occurrence wt)uld be recorded, and possibly an 
illustralion published, but sul)sequent works would \\o\. be considered incomplete 
which did not describe them as British. 



The Wheatear. 29 

Family— TURDID^. Subfaviily— TURD I N^. 

The Wheatear. 

Saxicola coianthe, LiNN. 

ALTHOUGH Howard Saunders associates the Wheatears with the " Bush- 
chats," he points out the fact that they dififer in their longer tails and 
white rumps, and states also Dr. Sharpe's belief that the members of the 
genus Pratiticola are Flycatchers fMuscicapidce) : the habits and actions of Saxicola 
and Pratincola are certainly not exactly similar, although a general likeness iu the 
distribution of colours on the head, gives one the impression of relationship 
between them. 

The Wheatear is a very remarkable bird in appearance, its head appearing to 
be far too large for its body : in stuffed specimens its whole character is invariably 
lost b}' the taxidermist, who produces an indentation, where none exists in life, 
just at the back of the skull : illustrations also, being mostly taken from prepared 
skins, do not usually do justice to the bull-headed Robin-like aspect of the living 

Occurring all over the Western Palsearctic Region from Greenland to Africa, 
and eastward through Siberia to North China, the Wheatear is also found in 
Eastern N. America and Behring's Straits ; it is common, though local, throughout 
Great Britain, arriving early in March and departing in September ; but its 
numbers increase as one travels northward, comparatively few pairs breeding in 
the southern counties. In winter it occurs both in North and West Africa, whilst 
Asiatic examples migrate to Mongolia, N. India and Persia, and American birds 
travel as far as the Bermudas. 

The male Wheatear in breeding plumage has the upper parts grey, the wings 
dark brown and black, the rump white, the two central tail-feathers black to near 
base, the others white, broadly tipped with black ; forehead and superciliary streak 
white ; lores and ear-coverts black ; under surface of body pale buff, slightly 
deeper on throat and breast ; but in old birds almost white, with throat and 
breast buff; under wing-coverts and axillaries mottled with dark grey and white; 
bill black, feet black, iris dark brown. 

The female is huffish brown, darker above, the ear-coverts dark brown instead 

30 The Wheatear. 

of black. In autumn, owing to the broad pale buff borders to the new feathers, 
the male uearl}^ resembles the female ; but during the winter these borders seem 
to be partly lost and the colour (as with that in the plumage of manj' other birds) 
grows in the feathers themselves without a further moult.* 

Young birds are spotted above and below, the feathers of the wings and tail 
being also edged and tipped with buif. 

The name Wheatear is derived from the words white and the Anglo-Saxon 
cers (rump) ; I believe the bird is still called " JVhifus" by the peasantry in some 
parts of England; it is also known by the names of "Stone Clatter'' and 
" Clacharan " (Little mason.) 

In Kent I have seen this bird but once, and then only on a wild neglected 
piece of grass-land close to a cultivated watercress stream ; in the side of a bank 
overhanging this stream was a hollow, probably the end of a mole burrow, which 
had been cut across to lengthen the bed of the stream ; and in this hollow was 
the Wheatear's nest ; unfortunately she had not commenced to lay. In the same 
place a lady friend obtained eggs of this species the year before. 

In June, 1886, I saw a considerable number of Wheatears : they were flying 
about the broken cliffs between Yarmouth and Caister, where sand and patches of 
reedy grass are commingled over irregular slopes and hollows ; an expanse desolate 
indeed in appearance, but the home of numerous rabbits, whose burrows in every 
direction form traps for the heedless pedestrian. I looked in mau}^ a hole for 
nests, but my search was not rewarded. I thought of, and put into practice, the 
advice given in the following extract from Yarrell, 4th edition, to no purpose. 
"When the nest is in a rabbit-burrow it is not unfrequently visible from the 
exterior, but when under a rock it is often placed a long way from the entrance, 
and out of sight. It can nearly always be found with certainty, by watching the 
hen-bird, and Salmon says that on the large warrens of Suflfolk and Norfolk its 
position is easil}- detected by the considerable number of small pieces of the 
withered stalks of the brake amassed at the entrance of tlie burrow. When the 
place of concealment, however, is beneath a rock or earth-fast stone, the nest is 
often inaccessible to the finder." 

In addition to its favourite rabbit-burrow, the Wlieatear utilizes heaps of 
stones, niches in walls, peat-stacks or banks ; or even hollows partly sheltered by 
a large clod or stone, as building sites. The nest is a rather large and flattish 
structure, loosely formed of very fine dried grass, sometimes rootlets and a little 

• In tlie case of the- Indigo Bunting of N. .\nierica, the change from brown winter plumage to the bright 
blue and green of the breeding dress, is chiefly due to a gradual growth of the bright colouring in the feathers, 
comparatively few feathers being shed : I have the .skiu of a bird which died half through its spring change, 
showing the feathers in their transitional stage. 

The Wheat ear. 31 

moss, and liued with feathers and hair, or hair alone. The eggs are said to vary 
from fonr to eight in number, six being the usual clutch ; they are somewhat 
elongated, pale greenish blue, and (almost invariably) unspotted, but very rarely 
there are a few very indistinct purplish dots at the larger end. 

The Wheatear is largely insectivorous, capturing much of its food on the 
wing after the manner of the Flycatchers. It also eats larvae of various insects, 
spiders, small worms and molluscs, but in the autumn it also eats the wild moor- 
land fruits : it is a pretty sight to watch this bird perched upon a wall, its tail 
swaying up and down like that of a Wagtail : presently you see it jerk its 
head upwards and off it darts with graceful fluttering flight after some passing 
beetle or fly, which it captures without difficulty. If you creep up to watch 
more closely, it waits until perhaps only a few yards intervene between 3'ou and 
it, then away it flits, somewhat after the fashion of a Wagtail, to some more 
distant rock. When searching for the nest in Norfolk and hoping that the bird 
would reveal its proximit}' by returning, after a short journey in one direction, to 
some previously occupied rock, we found that it still flew before us from rock to 
rock ; it became evident that our fruitless search could only be explained by the 
fact that we were too late upon the scene. 

The Wheatear first arrives in the south of England towards the end of 
March, the males reaching our shores a little earlier than the females, but they 
usuall}^ begin to build about the middle of April and the nest may be found from 
this time to about the middle of May, but although the species is double-brooded, 
the June nests seem less easy to discover, possibly they may be more carefully 
concealed, or the increased power of the sixn makes stooping more irksome to the 
searcher. In August and September numbers congregate together, in preparation 
for their migration to the south ; at this season many are snared by the shepherds 
on the Sussex Downs and destro3'ed for food ; by the beginning of October most 
of the survivors have left the country. 

The song of this bird is a short, but not unpleasant warbling, but its call 
notes are less musical, resembling the sharp chink, chack, chack produced by the 
concussion of a flint and steel. 

In confinement the Wheatear or " Clod," as the London birdcatchers call it, 
soon gains confidence in the goodwill of its owner and flies up to the wires to 
take flies or mealworms from his fingers; it is a peaceful law-abiding subject; 
but when some favourite morsel has been snatched from under its very bill, it 
sometimes shows its annoyance by the sharp click of its mandibles, characteristic 
of most insectivorous birds. The first Wheatear I ever possessed was brought to 
me one evening by a small bird-dealer, who informed me that it had been caught 


32 The Isabelline Wheatear. 

that afternoon and that, if I did not care to give ninepence for it, he meant to 
kill and stuff it for one of his customers. Of course I bought it, turned it into 
a large flight cage in my study and hoped to reconcile it to captivity. Unlike 
many birds when newly caught, this Wheatear appeared to be quite at home at 
once, but I could not succeed in inducing it to eat anything but mealworms and 
house-flies ; berries it would not look at, and soft food it regarded with utter 
contempt ; in three days it died. 

A second specimen was brought to me, about nine years later, by a friend 
who had alread}- kept it for about a week, in a room with other British Birds. 
I turned it out with Wagtails and other birds in a large unheated aviar}' ; it took 
kindly to the soft food from the first, and ate a good man}' cockroaches daily ; 
passed through the winter without mishap, came into full breeding plumage and 
commenced to sing in the spring : sometimes, but rarely, it sang on the wing ; 
it usually preferred to sit close to a wide casement, which is kept open during 
the mild weather, and warble at intervals. When a fly passed into the aviary, 
it had little chance of escaping ; the Wheatear, a Redstart and a Grey Wagtail 
were all after it at once, and the Redstart was generally the winner ; the 
Wheatear coming in second, and the Wagtail rarely getting a chance, in spite 
of its marvellous aerial acrobatic powers. Unfortunatel}^ this bird did not live 
many months ; before I had kept it a year it died suddenly ; although the day 
previously, it had appeared to be in excellent health. 

Other species of Wheatears have been admitted into the British list, but 
their claim to this position is based upon the chance occurrence of one or two 
examples in this country. Whilst denying that this gives them a title to the 
name of Britisher, it may perhaps be as well to record their names : — 

Family— TURDIDyE. Subfamily— TURDIN^. 

The IvSabellinb: Whkatear. 

Saxiiola isabflliiia, RiJPP 


DMITTED to be an English bird on the ground that a single female 
example was shot at Allonby, in Cumberland, on the nth November, 1887. 


Whinchat i ^ 

Plate 9. 

Black-Throated Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Whinchat. ss 

Family— TURDID.^. Subfamily— TURBINE. 

The Black Throated Wheatear. 

Saxicola stapazina, ViEILL. 


SINGLE male specimen was sliot near Bury, in Lancashire, about the 8th 
Ma}', 1875 ; it belonged to the Eastern race of the species. 

Family— TURD ID ^. Subfamily— TURDIN^. 

The Desert Wheatear. 

Saxicola dcserti, Rupp. 


MALE was shot near Alloa in Clackmannanshire, on the 26th November, 
1880, a female on the Holdemess coast, Yorkshire, on the 17th October, 
1885, and a second near Arbroath on the 28th December, 1887. 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— TURDIN^F. 

The Whinchat. 

Fratiiicola Rubctra, LiNN. 

BREEDS in suitable localities throughout Northern and Central Europe, its 
eastern boundary in European Russia being probably the Ural Mountains ; 
it winters in Southern Europe and Northern Africa, extending its range 
westward to Fantee and eastward to Abyssinia. It also occurs in Arabia, Asia 
Minor and Northern India : bv:t in the Indian examples the relative length of 
the primaries is said to differ, and the birds themselves are larger than ours. 
In Great Britain the "Whinchat is pretty generally distributed ; being abundant 

34 The Whinchat. 

in certain localities, but absent from many districts of Scotland, and somewhat 
local in Ireland. 

The Whinchat above is blackish brown, the feathers edged with sandy buff, 
slightl}' redder on the upper tail-coverts ; wings dark brown, smaller coverts 
white ; two central tail-feathers dark brown, white at base ; other tail-feathers 
with the basal half white and the terminal half dark brown, with buff margins ; 
a clear white superciliar}^ streak ; lores, ear-coverts and cheeks dark brown ; 
chin white, continuous with a streak bounding the lower part of the cheek and 
sides of neck, throat and breast reddish fawn colour, shading into buff towards 
centre of belly; under tail-coverts also buff; bill and feet black; iris brown. 

This bird is most commonly seen on broad open commons, heathery 
mountain slopes, pastures (whence its local name of " Grass-chat,") meadows 
and wild briar-clad wastes ; it haunts both mountain and valley, hill and dale, 
and wherever vast tracks of furze-covered land exist, it may be confidently 
looked for; to this it owes its common nickname of " Fuz-chat," the only title 
I believe, by which the London birdcatchers recognize it. In some districts it 
is also known bj' the name "Utick" on account of its call note u-tic, u-lac or 

I first met with the Whinchat in fair numbers, about the middle of Ma}', 
amongst the gorse bushes covering a wide expanse not far from Detling, on the 
road from Sittingbourne to Maidstone. The birds were dotted about here and 
tliere on the topmost spraj'S of the gorse, whence every half minute or so they 
darted off after some insect, returning almost invariably to the same perch. 
Every few minutes one of them would flit off, warbling softly, to some distant 
bush, under which it would dive ; but when I imagined that its nest was there 
concealed, and walking straight to that point, began carefull}' to seek for it, 
I invariably found that there not only was no trace of a nest, either in or 
under the bush, but that the mischievous bird had simply passed through an 
opening and onwards, perchance in some new direction with the distinct purpose 
of misleading me, or else had sought some fresh article of diet below the 
shelter of that prickly cover. 

The Whinchat is very largel}' insectivorous, its food consisting chiefl}' of 
insects, their larvae and spiders ; it also eats small worms, small molluscs, and 
it has been knowu to feed upon growing corn ; it is a great friend to the 
farmer, on account of its fondness for wireworms (the larvae of spring-back 
beetles) ; it obtains in considerable numbers in the Spring when the land 
lies fallow ; and later, when the young turnips are opening their first leaves, it 
is a great enemy to the destructive turnip fly. I have tried it with the turnip 

The Whinchat. 35 

beetle, but tbe offensive red ink flavour of this insect was too much for it, and 
it turned away in disgust after tasting the first sample : berries, which (I 
believe) the Whinchat has been credited with eating, and red or white currants, 
it refused even to glance at. 

The nidification of the Whinchat commences early in May and I have seen 
nests of fresh eggs which were taken quite a month later; but, in that case, 
the first nests had been robbed : although this species has been stated to be 
double-brooded, the evidence in support of that belief requires confirmation ; the 
male bird certainly ceases to sing in July; this, one would not expect to be the 
case, unless it had concluded its domestic duties. The nest is usually placed on 
the ground among grass or heather ; sometimes in the middle of a field or 
nnder shelter of a hedge, frequently under a furze bush, either on the ground 
or just above it among the branching stems ; it is a large and rather loose 
structure formed of bents, fibrous roots and sometimes a little moss, and is lined 
with fine dry grass and hair. 

Tlie eggs vary from four to six, the latter being the usual number ; they 
are greenish bine, in tint not unlike those of the Hedge Accentor, but generally 
of a less perfect oval, the larger, as well as the smaller extremity being some- 
what pointed ; the}' are finel}' speckled with reddish brown, the dots forming a 
pale zone round the larger end. The parents are very wary in discovering the 
position of their treasures, and will not approach the nest when the}^ discover 
the presence of an intruder ; but, if by chance you wander towards it, the}- fly 
round j-our liead in the greatest anxiety uttering a thin dismal cry, which to 
me sounded like the word /sivft', varied at times by their call note u-h'c : I have 
also seen them drop on the grass and scramble along as if injured, apparently 
with the object of inviting pursuit ; a trick which, did they but know it, only 
renders the birds'-nester more satisfied that he is on the right scent. 

The flight of the Whinchat is graceful and undulating, and during the 
breeding- season consists of short journeys from bush to bush, varied by aerial 
evolutions in pursuit of gnats or other small winged insects. Suddenly it swoops 
downwards as it perceives some tiny beetle on a grass stem, to which as it seizes 
its pre}-, it clings for a moment with fluttering wings, then darts away to the 
topmost spra}^ of a whin bush, and watches with ever springing tail for another 
victim. To the novice in the study of bird-life this active little fellow is a 

Seebohm sa3's : "Although the Whinchat so often chooses a perch near the 
ground, it b\' no means shuns the trees, and especiall}' towards the end of 
summer, it is seen with its young brood high up amongst the branches. The 


36 The Whinchat. 

bird does not show that partiality for walls and rocks which is so marked a 
featnre of the Redstart or Wheatear. In the pastoral districts the Whinchat, 
directly after its arrival, frequents the fallows which are being worked for the 
turnip crops, and on these places is found almost continuously until the neigh- 
bouring pastures afford it sufficient shelter. The Whinchats never roost in trees, 
but always on the ground. Wlien they first arrive we find them at night on the 
fallows, but for the remainder of the season grass fields and turnip lands are 
frequented. In the wilder parts of its haunts the Whinchat roosts amongst the 
heath and the tangled undergrowth of gorse covert and brake. Another remark- 
able trait in the character of this bird is its activity in the dusk of the evening, 
a time probably when some insect that forms its favourite food is abundant ; and 
its well-known call notes may be heard long after the birds themselves are con- 
cealed from view by the falling shadows of night." 

This species is not a resident bird, although a few instances have been 
recorded of its passing the winter in England. It arrives in the South of 
England about the middle of April, reaching our Northern counties a week or 
two later : late in September it again journeys southwards. 

M}^ second captive Whinchat was given to me early in September, 1893, and 
I turned it into an aviary with other British Birds and a pair of Rosa's Parrakeets. 
I found it very shy ; but unfortunately I was unable to keep it long enough to 
judge whether it was likely to overcome its want of confidence ; for within a week, 
one of the Parrakeets caught it and crushed its skull, thus not only killing it but 
rendering it useless as a cabinet specimen. It took readily to the usual soft food 
mixture, commencing, like all soft-billed birds, with the egg and ants' cocoons 
and only eating the bread and potato when these failed ; it was especially keen 
on mealworms, probabl}- not discovering any difference between them and its 
natural diet of wireworms, and it devoured a considerable number of small 
cockroaches ; flies and small moths it pursued and caught on the wing. It 
usually passed the night either on the earth or upon some twigs stuck into the 
earth. At times it uttei-ed its thin piercing cry and its singular call-note ; but, 
at that season, I, of course, could not expect it to sing. When an3'one entered the 
aviary it flew wildly from side to side ; but, at other times contented itself with 
keeping at a respectful distance, never showing any anxiety to escape, or even 
that restless impatience of captivit}' characteristic of tlic Hedge Accentor and 
man}- other small birds when freshl}' captured. 




G . 

Stonechat. 4 9 

The Stonechat. 37 

Family— TURDID.^ Subfamily— TURD IN At. 

The Stonechat. 

Pratincola rubicola, LiNN. 

INHABITS the central and milder parts of Northern Europe and southward 
to Asia Minor, Palestine and North Africa; specimens have also been obtained 

south of Senegal. 

In Great Britain the Stonechat is resident and breeds locally in every county 
of Great Britain and Ireland, as also in the Hebrides ; in the Orkney and Shetland 
Islands it is known to occur, but not to breed. 

The Stonechat is a very handsome little bird, especially when in breeding 
plumage. The male has the whole of the feathers of the upper surface (excepting 
those of the upper tail-coverts which are white) dull black fringed with tawny 
brown ; the head from a line above the eye and the throat velvety-black ; wings 
and tail blackish brown ; smaller wing- coverts, bases of inner secondaries and sides 
of neck broadly white ; under parts tawny-rufous, deepest on the breast and sides, 
almost white at centre of chest, but shading into buff on abdomen ; bill and feet 
ebony-black, iris dark brown. The female is altogether duller in colouring ; the 
white wing-patch smaller, the tail-coverts reddish brown, the throat mottled with 
black. In winter the white on the sides of the neck becomes mottled with tawn}', 
the secondaries have broad tawny borders and either whitish or tawu}' tips, the 
tail-feathers are also broadl}' bordered with buff; the ear coverts, chin and throat 
feathers are also slightly tipped on the fringe with tawny or white, and the 
upper part of the white neck-patch is mottled with tawny. The nestling is spotted 
above and below, and does not show the dark throat, or white patches of the 
adult bird ; but, in other respects, resembles it in its winter plumage. 

Though so different from the Whinchat in pattern, this species resembles it 
greatly in form and in its habits ; it frequents similar localities — wild heathery 
moorland, gorse-clad commons, uncultivated broken ground, dotted with bush and 
bramble, with here and there loose stones, or bedded rocks moss-grown and 
venerable : in such haunts the Stonechat breeds, and there he may be seen poised 
on the topmost spray of the flowering furze with ever restless tail, anon darting 
from bush to bush with undulating flight, or hovering moth-like to seize some 

38 The Stonechat. 

fluttering insect. All attempts of the stranger to investigate its family concerns 
are met by the Stouechat with alarm and resentment ; to anyone seeking the nest 
it is most confusing to hear the two parent birds chackins;; in different places, 
rarely in the same bush ; the male also from time to time uttering a queer double 
note, in which he seems to proclaim himself a Wheatear.* 

The nest is frequentl}' placed in some depression of the soil partly or wholly 
concealed by herbage, below a furze-bush, or shrub ; so that oue may look beneath 
the very cover where it is situated, and not perceive it ; it is always on the 
ground : its construction is loose, but tolerably neat, dry grass or rootlets and a 
little moss being used for the outside ; finer grass, hair, feathers and sometimes 
wool, for the lining. 

The eggs vary from four to six in number, and are not unlike those of the 
Whinchat ; but the}' are greener in tint, and usually much more heavily zoned 
and spotted with red-brown ; the spotting sometimes covers a much larger area ; 
but frequentl}' forms a suffused patch on the larger end, or a broad belt near the 
end ; occasionally it is barely indicated : I once took eggs of the Spotted Fl3-catcher 
similarl}- marked, and which, but for their slightly paler ground-tint, might have 
been mistaken for eggs of this species. 

The song of the Stonechat is soft, low, irregular but rather pleasant to listen 
to ; it reminds me somewhat of the first efforts of the Indigo-Bunting of N. 
America, when that bird is "recording" his song. The call-note, which has 
nothing to do with his scolding, or complaining notes, is a sharp tdk, tsik, tsik, 
almost like the sound produced by striking two flints together. 

The Stonechat feeds on insects, their larvae, spiders, small worms, and during 
the winter on seeds : moths and butterflies it catches on the wing, and I was 
much interested, on one occasion, in watching it in pursuit of a Vapourer-moth. 
the circling onward flight of which seemed for some time to baffle it, though 
success at last rewarded its efforts to seize it. I have seen a House-Sparrow 
utterl}' nonplussed by the progressive gyrations of this little moth ; the difficult}' 
of catching it being increased by the fact that, when pursued, it constantly rises 
higher and higher ; in the capture of such a moth only a bird with the agility 
of a Flycatcher or Wagtail can hope for success. 

The flight of this species is short and undulating, its greatest eff"orts being 
made in pursuit of prey : when roosting or hopping, its tail is incessantly in 
motion: if terrified, this bird seems to prefer concealment to flight, always seeking 
the densest cover in the immediate neighbourhood, but sometimes revealing its 
whereabouts by uttering its alarm cry: even when the nest is approached, as already 

♦ This scolding note is best expressed by the words hweet-jurt the terminal r having a vibrant sound. 

The Stonechat. 39 

hinted, the Stonechat is only seen when flitting from bush to bush, but it is heard 

I have only once had an opportimit)' of studying this species as an aviary 
bird. Mr. E. P. Staines, of Penge, an enthusiastic student of British cage-birds 
gave me a specimen, at the same time that he also brought me my Whinchat, in 
September, 1893 : I turned it into the same aviary, and although I kept it for 
over a year, it ultimately lost its life from a similar cause, a Rosa's Parrakeet 
breaking one of its legs at the mid-tarsal or so-called knee-joint. I caged the 
bird up separately, after binding the limb up, but it only survived two days. 

In the aviary the Stonechat is gentle and extremely lively; never quarrelling, 
but often obtaining a delicacy by superior activity : thus I have seen it seize a 
spider from under the very bill of a Wagtail and carry it half across the aviary 
before the larger bird had solved the problem as to how it had disappeared ; it 
was also very expert in catching white butterflies on the wing, though it frequently 
lost them through getting hold of their wings only. 

The Stonechat took to soft food without hesitation, and, many a time when 
the other inhabitants of the aviary were waiting for a fresh supply, I have seen 
him alight on the edge of the Parrakeet's seed-pan and swallow canary and millet : 
possibly it was in this manner he got in the way of one of these treacherous birds, 
and so lost his life. Of cockroaches he was inordinately fond, jumping into the 
beetle-trap and flingiug them out, or swallowing the smaller ones at a gulp : 
sometimes he would snatch out a large female by one leg and fling the body away, 
following it up and again catching at a second leg with the same action, until he had 
completely dismembered the body, which would then be swallowed entire : it is 
astonishing to see what large morsels can be gulped down by these little birds ! 

This bird often sang in the early spring ; but, as in its wild state, its warbling 
ceased entirely before the end of June : it was fairly tame, but would not actually 
take an insect from my fingers, always waiting until I dropped it, before attempt- 
ing to secure it : like all insectivorous birds, it was more keen on spiders than 
anything else, and the larger they were the better it was pleased. 

40 The Redstart. 

F.antly— TURDID^. Subfamily— TURDIN^. 

The Redstart. 

Ruticilla plianicurus, LiNN. 

BREEDS throughout Central Europe as far as the North Cape and in the 
Pine regions of Southern Europe ; where, however, it is rarely seen except- 
ing on migration ; in winter it migrates to Northern Africa, the Canaries, 
Madeira, Senegal, Abyssinia, Arabia and Persia. It is pretty generally distributed 
throughout Great Britain, though locally scarce ; its occurrence in the Orkneys 
and Shetlands and in Ireland is rare, and it is unknown in the Hebrides. 

The male bird in breeding plumage is very attractive, vaguely resembling 
the Robin in front and the Nightingale at the back. The upper surface is slaty 
grey, with rufous-brown tips to the feathers ; the back of forehead and an 
irregular line over the eye white ; rump and upper tail-coverts chestnut red ; 
the two central tail feathers dark brown, the others chestnut red ; wings smoky 
brown, secondaries with pale buff margins to the outer webs ; base of forehead, 
face, ear-coverts, chin and throat black ; chest and axillaries chestnut red ; 
abdomen and flanks tawny buff; bill and feet black, iris brown. The female 
is altogether duller in colouring without the bright hues on the head and with 
the under surface paler. Both sexes in autumn have long white fringes to the 
feathers, giving them a greyish appearance which disappears in the Spring.* 
Nestlings are spotted both above and below and, but for tlieir redder tails, might 
be almost mistaken for young Robins. 

The Redstart is a summer visitant to Great Britain usually arriving in April, 
though its advent is somewhat dependent on the state of the temperature. It goes 
to nest in May, and in September flits by night to its winter quarters. 

The favourite haunts of this species are ivy-grown rocks and ruins ; old walls 
nmnd gardens and orchards ; plantations ; shrubberies ; scattered open woodland 
with ancient timber ; groves of birch ; wild commons, on poor and rocky ground 
strewn with bramble and brake. I first met with it in the Stockbury valley in 

• It is usually supposed, that when the plumage of birds alters in the spring, it is done by casting the 
pale or dull tips ; but, judging from birds of various species which have died in the uiiddle of their transfor- 
mation, I feel certain that in many cases the colouring grows in the feathers themselves. I have a Redstart 
before uie in which the long fringes arc jjartly huff and partly white, whilst the throat feathers are black 
excepting at the extreme tips. 





^ / 

Redstart s ,",, 9 

Pi Art I 1. 

The Redstart. 41 

Kent : I was examining a tall roadside hawthorn edge for nests, when suddenly a 
small bird appeared, out of the field at the back, right in the centre of an open 
part of the hedge its tail quivering laterally, with a remarkable springy action 
quite new to me : at first I wondered what this lovely little creature could be ; 
and then, suddenly, its identity with the Redstart revealed itself, and the next 
minute it turned and flitted away. The flight is irregular, jerky and not specially 
rapid, excepting when the bird is either startled or in pursuit of pre}' ; in the 
latter case I know of no bird of its size which can equal it in activity, or in its 
power of doubling ; the same may also be said of the male bird, when in pursuit 
of another of its own sex. 

The food of the Redstart consists of insects and their larvse, spiders, centipedes 
and, towards autumn, of unripe corn and small fruits : most of its pre}' is captured 
in the air and no insect pursued by it has the least chance of escaping : it will 
stop in midflight and poise itself, fluttering in one spot whilst it seizes a sun-fly; 
or, with equal ease, it will follow the wild zigzag wanderings of the small white 
butterfly : in pursuit of spiders, it will rise up and down, like the Humming-bird 
moth, before old moss-grown walls, searching every crevice for the lurking victims ; 
an unwary centipede, projecting its head in a tentative manner from behind a 
fragment of loosened bark, or running hurriedly from the shelter of one boulder 
to another, is snatched up in a second and devoured ; if a small green caterpillar 
crosses a woodland path, the Redstart darts obliquely down as though hurled from 
a catapult, alights for one second with quivering expanded tail, and seizing its 
victim gives it a bang or two and swallows it. If, however, the caterpillar is a 
large one, the bird either remains on the earth until it has knocked it to a pulp, 
or carries it to a branch and there, holding it by the head, strikes it backwards 
and forwards across its perch : gnats and flies are caught and swallowed on the wing. 

It has been said that the action of the Redstart's tail is vertical, not lateral ; 
but certainly to my eye it is rather lateral than vertical, and I have watched it 
in an aviary for an hour at a time : the action bears no resemblance whatever 
to that of either the Whinchat or Stonechat, but consists of a sudden lateral 
springiness with a slight expansion of the feathers. I repeatedly called the 
attention of others to this abnormal tail-movement and everyone who saw it agreed 
with me that it was a vibrant wag. When the bird is at rest on a branch, every 
thought of the little creature seems to be emphasized by a jerk, or an expansion 
of the feathers. 

Nidification commences early in May, the site being just such as a Robin 
would select ; a hole in a tree or wall, but sometimes a hollow gate post, or a 
flower pot is chosen : it is usually not far from the ground. The nest itself is 

42 The Redstart. 

externally carelessly constructed of dry grass, rootlets, moss and sometimes a little 
wool, the interior being carefully lined with hair and feathers : the number of 
eggs varies from five to eight, though rarel}'- exceeding six ; in colour the}' much 
resemble those of the Hedge Accentor, but are slightly paler and more glossy. 

Although the Redstart usually builds in holes and under cover, instances 
have been recorded of its forming its nest in an exposed situation ; thus in the 
"Zoologist" for 1888, pp. 352-3, the Rev. H. A. Macpherson says: — 

" In Juuc last, Air. Bell, of Liddell Bank, Dumfriesshire, an enthusiastic field 
naturalist, was kind enough to ask m}- friend Mr. Bail}- and myself to spend a 
couple of days in birds' -nesting with him on the Liddell. I was detained at home, 
but Mr. Baily went, and on his return reported the find of a Redstart's nest 
built into an old nest of a Song-Thrush. There was no doubt about the owner- 
ship of the nest, for the hen bird was seen sitting on the eggs, two of which 
were taken." 

" The Thrush's nest measures about four inches across, and that of the Red- 
start two inches and one fifth inside measurement : the former was placed in a 
thorn bush, and was therefore open to the sky, though well concealed b}' 
branches above. I have seen a good many Redstart's nests, but I can only recall 
one instance in my own experience in which a nest of R. phccnicurus has been 
open to the sky. The nest in question was placed in a thick bush, and was 
surrounded by thickets." 

The song of the Redstart is uttered either on the wing, or when perching ; 
it is both insignificant and monotonous, somewhat resembling that of the Robin, 
though much less varied ; its call-note is wheet-tit-tit and its note of alarm a 
melancholy wheet : when courting, like some other species, it records its song ; 
that is to say, it sings it in a whisper, omitting the louder notes. 

As an aviary bird, I have found the Redstart especiall}- pleasing ; it is quite 
hardy, provided that plenty of insects can be supplied daily, it rapidly becomes 
very tame and confiding, and is a most ornamental addition to one's feathered 

In September, 1893, Mr. Staines brought me a healthy example, which I 
turned out with the Stonechat and Whinchat into one of my unheated aviaries, 
disregarding utterly the reputed extreme delicacj' of this species. That winter 
the thermometer on several occasions registered ten or twelve degrees of frost, 
nevertheless the Redstart was not in the least disturbed by the cold, but seemed 
quite at home and happy. Every morning I put a " Demon beetle trap " into 
the aviary, and the Redstart was the first bird to rush in among the evil-smelling 
captives, seize one and fly oflf with it : no sooner was the first swallowed than he 

The Redstart. 43 

was back again for another, and so on nntil he was sated; he was always actively 
flying abont, and when I put in the saucer of soft food he invariably skimmed 
over it snatching up a fragment of yolk of egg, whilst the saucer was still in my 
hand. If I offered mealworms or spiders in my fingers it was also the Redstart 
who snatched the first, flying up to the wires and either poising with rapidly 
fluttering wings, almost like a Humming-bird, or clutching the wire work with 
his claws for one second, to ensure a correct aim at the dainty. 

I found the Redstart rather fond of red and white currants in the early 
summer, and in the autumn thin slices of apple were pecked to pieces by it ; but 
white butterflies seemed to form its favourite morsels and the astounding manner 
in which it would swallow one after another (wings and all) was worth the 
attention of visitors to my collection. One thing I specially noted ; in common 
with every migratory species which I have kept, the Redstart failed to show any 
access of restlessness as the season of migration approached. Personally I do not 
believe, for a moment, that any bird, properly attended to in the matter of food, 
in an aviary, is even aware that there is a season of migration. 

Aviculturists go at night and glare at their birds, with the moon lighting up 
their eyes into balls of fire, and the frightened creatures bang about recklessly in 
their terror of the vague monster near their cages. The verdict is : — " See the 
efiect of the migratory instinct ! " There may possibly be an inherited desire in 
some birds to travel at the approach of cold weather, but the true explanation of 
the so-called "migratory instinct" in birds is, to most of them, merely another 
name for short commons ; and, to the more delicate species, the added discomfort 
of chilly nights. It must also be borne in mind that, at all seasons of the year, 
birds in aviaries are extremely restless on bright moonlight nights, the clear 
white light with the black shadows which accompany it, seem to startle birds ; 
and, if your bedroom window is above an aviary, you will hear your captives 
thumping the wirework at the end of each flight, at all hours of the night : 
moreover the resident birds are quite as much given to this somewhat risky 
exercise as the migratory species.* 

During the winter of 1894-5 the temperature of ni}- unheated aviaries was 
unusually low; on one night (when the cold outside was very intense, two degrees 
below zero, in fact) the thermometer registered twenty-one degrees of frost in the 
passage between these aviaries ; my Redstart, however, was as lively as before, 

* This statement of mine has been disputed, on the ground that many 3'oung birds migrate before the 
summer is over, and that this cannot be the reason for the return of the birds to their northern breeding 
haunts in the spring. I never pretended that it was the only reason in the case of all birds, though I think 
it probable that it was the initial cause of the migratory habit, which has become fixed by repetition through- 
out numerous generations and persists even when the original cause for it has ceased to exist. The damp of 
winter is far more dangerous to bird-life than frost, but want of food is fatal. 

44 The Black Redstart. 

and I hoped to keep liiui for man}' j-ears in health : but one niglit, during his 
spring cliange of plumage, he crept into a log-nest and died : I am afraid that, in 
spite of abundant insect food, the cold of that winter was rather too much for 
him ; j-et he was bright and active to the last da\- of his life, showing no 
S3'mptoms of distressed breathing, or any other signs of impending dissolution. 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— TURDIN^. 

The Black Redstart. 

Rulicilla litys, ScoP. 

RESPECTING the geographical distribution of the Black Redstart, Seebohm 
writes : — " In the south it extends from Portugal through Algeria to 
Palestine. Northwards its range becomes more restricted, and apparently 
does not extend east of the valleys of the Dneister and the Vistula or north of 
Holstein. In autumn stragglers have been known to occur in West Russia, 
Scandinavia, the north of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the Faroes (on the 
authority of Captain Feilden), and even, it is said, as far as Iceland. North of 
the Alps it is for the most part a migratory bird, though a few are known to 
frequent situations where open water is to be found during the winter. South of 
the Alps it is found throughout the j'ear, its numbers being increased during 
winter, its range at that season extending as far south as Nubia." "As the Black 
Redstart very rarely occurs in Norfolk, and has not been recorded from the 
Lincolnshire coast, it seems probable that the birds which visit our islands come 
from Holland, where it is exceedingly common, and follow the coast, choosing the 
shortest passage across the Channel." 

This is an autumn and winter visitant to our southern coasts, being most 
commoul}' met with in Devon and Cornwall ; but whether it reall}- remains to 

Black Redstart $ & ? 

Plate 12. 

The Black Redstart. 45 

breed with us has been questioned : eggs supposed to belong to this bird have, 
from time to time been obtained in various localities, but in no case have the 
birds themselves been satisfactorily identified in connection with these eggs : thus 
an egg, believed by several eminent Ornithologists to be that of the Black 
Redstart, was passed round at a Meeting of the Zoological Society in 1878, by 
the Rev. R. P. Barron, M.A. ; he having obtained it with two others in Hertford- 
shire in 1876. This egg was sent to me for illustration in my "Handbook of 
British Oology," together with the remains of the nest ; Mr. Barron writing 
respecting it as follows : — 

"The nest, I fear, is not very perfect, having been two 3'ears left in its place; 
it was found in the middle of May, 1876, right inside the hollow trunk of a living 
elm-tree, at a distance of about seven or eight feet from the ground, in a projecting 
ledge of the inside wood, and within a few feet of a small lake. There were 
originally three eggs, of a slightly pinkish tint before being blown ; they had 
been forsaken ; the nest seemed to be lined with hair and hay. You need not, 
of course, return the egg or nest." 

When I received this egg I was satisfied, from the distinctly unhesitating 
decision of well-known authorities, that it was a genuine Black Redstart's ; by 
daylight, it then showed a scarcely perceptible bluish green tinge, which has since 
entirely faded : looking at it now in conjunction with the remains of the nest, I 
see no reason wlij^ it should not be a white egg of the common Robin. 

With regard to Mr. Stirling's nests, he does not indeed note that in one 
instance the hen was engaged in incubation ; but, as he does not appear to have 
secured her, and all his nests were found in hedges or thorn fencing, the nidifi- 
cation of this species in Great Britain must still remain unproved, so far as his 
observations are concerned. 

I have eggs of the Yellow-Hammer which might easily be mistaken for those 
of the Black Redstart ; they are small for the species, being evidently deposited 
by a young bird, and are pure white. Unless the female was distinctly identified 
on the nest before she slipped away, it is possible that she may have belonged to 
quite another species : white eggs occur now and again with many birds, and it 
is probable that the same hen would la}' white eggs year after year. 

The Black Redstart in breeding plumage has the upper parts slate-greyish, 
the rump and upper tail-coverts chestnut ; wings brown, with the secondaries 
broadly bordered with white on their outer webs ; tail chestnut, with the two 
central feathers brown ; forehead, face, chin, throat, breast, axillaries and under 
wing coverts black; bell}' and flanks buff; bill black, feet blackish, iris brown. 

The female is much duller than the male, being smoky brown above and 

46 The Black Redstart. 

slightly paler below, the white margins to the secondaries sordid, the chestnut of 
rump and tail suflfused with brownish. Nestlings are spotted above and below, 
but as soon as they acquire their adult plumage they resemble the female ; their 
full colouring not being attained until the second year. 

In its habits the Black Redstart is very like the Robin, but especially in its 
frequent characteristic stoop, accompanied by an upward jerk of the tail, and its 
alarm note tek, tek, tck. It appears to court the neighbourhood of mankind, 
frequenting farmyards, orchards and gardens ; and, as recorded by Howard 
Saunders, "Even in London one frequented the grounds of the Natural History 
Museum, South Kensington, from November 1885 until the snow-fall of January 
6th, 1886." 

The nest of the Black Redstart is usuall}' placed, like that of the commoner 
species, in holes in walls or clefts of rocks, but at other times on rafters in sheds 
and outhouses, or niches and shelves in old castles or summer houses. No 
particular effort is made to conceal it. The structure itself is externally rough 
and loose, like that of the Robin ; being composed of twigs, bents, rootlets and 
moss ; the lining is neat and well rounded, of hair and sometimes feathers and 
cobwebs. The eggs number from four to seven, but usually five; they are as a 
rule pure glossy white, occasionall}' with a faint bluish tinge and more rarely still 
slightly brownish or minutely speckled at the larger end with brown. 

Now, although my egg, when exhibited, was at once pronounced that of the 
Black Redstart, it was unfortunately, found in a nest built in a hollow tree, and 
it is believed that this species seldom, if ever, builds in such a situation. On the 
other hand there is no reason why some of the considerable numbers of this 
species which visit Great Britain when on migration should not remain to breed 
with us. 

John Cordeaux, in the "Zoologist" for 1893, states that this species is a very 
frequent visitor at Flamborough Head; both in spring and autumn: in 1891, he 
says, they came in battalions, first some on April 6th and again a great rush on 
May loth and nth, scores of fine males being seen in hedges and gardens. Then 
again, in the volume of the same publication for 1894, G. W. Bradshaw records 
the fact that a male was shot at Ninfield near Bexhill, on April loth. 

It therefore seems far from improbable that the discovery of the nest b}' a 
lady in Dumfriesshire in 1889, an account of which was published in the 
"Zoologist" for 1890 by Mr. O. Hammond, was genuine; he says: — 

"A lady, a near neighbour of mine, who is fond of observing birds, tells me 
that about the 12th of June last j^ear, .she found a nest of the Black Redstart 
about half a mile from Maxwelton, iu Dumfriesshire. The nest was in a stone 

The Black Redstart. 47 

'dyke' (wall), by the side of a road on a high hill, called ' Crossford.' The 
young were hatched. She tells me that she often went to watch the birds, both 
with a field glass and without one ; that they let her get very near, that she is 
certain of their identity, and that they were Black, and not Common, Redstarts." 

The food of this species consists of insects and their larvse, spiders, small 
Crustacea, and occasionally of small garden fruits : winged insects it captures in 
the air, after the manner of the commoner species, beetles, larvce and spiders it 
seeks for on the earth, especially on ground which has been newly turned up. 

In captivity the usual soft food, with the addition of cockroaches, spiders, 
mealworms, or wireworms, will suffice ; but most small insects will be acceptable. 

The song of this bird is simple, but the few notes are full and rich : it is 
therefore not surprising, seeing how handsomely it is coloured, that it should 
sometimes be kept in cage and aviary. 

Not infrequently exhibited at the bird-show of the " Ornis " Society in 
Berlin, and at the Crystal Palace Show. 

I can say nothing experimentally of this species : doubtless it would be easy 
to keep, and would make an engaging pet : but it ought to be turned loose in an 
aviary. Small insectivorous birds, when permanently kept in cages, rarely sing 
and usually die of apoplexy; at least that is my experience, excepting in the case 
of the Skylark, Woodlark, Nightingale, and sometimes the Robin : the last 
mentioned generally singing more or less, even when caged, but rarely living 
long in close captivity. 

So long as any part of your domain is infested with cockroaches, you need 
never question the practicability of keeping Redstarts alive, no matter whether 
your aviary be warmed or unheated ; if you can give them their daily beetle trap 
to forage in. Redstarts will live; but, if possible, extreme frosts should be avoided. 


48 The Red-Spotted Bluethroat. 

Family- Tl RDID/E. Sub/avnly— TUKDIN^. 

The Red-Spotted Bluethroat. 

Cya7iccula sinclca, LiNX. 

ALSO knowu as the " Arctic Blue-throated Robin " ; it is an occasional 
straggler to Great Britain, but chiefl}' to the southern and eastern coasts 
in autumn and spring ; it has, however, been recorded from Scotland.* 
Seebohm gives the following account of its distribution : — 

" The Arctic Blue-throat breeds within the Arctic circle, or in the birch- 
regions at high elevations of more southerly climes, both in Europe and Asia; in 
the latter continent it breeds as far south as the Hiraala3'as, and occasionall}- 
crosses Behring's Straits into Alaska. The European birds pass through Central 
and Southern Europe and Palestine on migration, and winter in North Africa as 
far south as Abyssinia ; whilst the Asiatic birds, with the exception of those 
individuals breeding at high elevations in the south, pass through Turkestan, 
Mongolia, and North China, and winter in Baluchistan, India and Ceylon, Burma, 
the Andaman Islands, and South China." 

The male Bluethroat in breeding plumage has the upper surface brown ; the 
tail-coverts chestnut, the two central tail feathers dark brown, the remainder with 
the basal half chestnut and the outer half dark brown ; a white or pale buff 
superciliaiy stripe from the base of the upper mandible to some distance behind 
the eye ; the cheeks, chin, throat and gorget glossj- cobalt blue, centred with 
chestnut, bordered with black, and then on the chest again bounded b}' a belt of 
chestnut ; remainder of under parts huffish white ; the wing coverts and axillaries 
yellower ; bill black, feet brown, iris brown. 

The female is much duller, showing none of tlie blue or chestnut colouring 
of the uialc until old, when she sometimes more nearly resembles him in hues ; 
the band across her chest is dark l)rown. 

In the autumn much of the bright ci)louring is lost, the new feathers being 
broadly fringed with grc)-, but in the spring this bordering disappears. 

* About sixteen or seventeen iustaiices of its occiirreiire lia<l been reronldl ii]i to i."<77, but in September 
1.S83. considerable numbers were observed on the eastern coast (chieflv in Norfolk! ami a still greater number 
in 1884. 







CQ m 

tu 3 
H '^ 






The Reu-Spotted Bluethroat. 49 

Young males resemble tlie female ; but nestlings are streaked with blackish, 
and, excepting in the chestnut base to the tail, are not iinlike young Robins. 

In its habits this species much resembles the Redbreast, according to Gatke, 
but others state that it is far more like a Chat or Wheatear in its actions ; its 
scheme of colouring reminds me somewhat of the last mentioned bird. In 
Heligoland it is said to frequent potato-fields in the autumn, but in the spring 
to haunt the gooseberry and currant-bushes in gardens, or beds planted thickly 
with cabbages, just beginning to throw out fresh sprouts. In the north however 
it is essentially a marsh-loving bird. 

The Rev. H. H. Slater in his "Field notes in Norway" (Zoologist 1883) 
says of the Bluethroat : — " Very plentiful on the Dovre Fjeld. At Fokstuen I 
might have shot twenty males any day, but the females were great skulkers, and 
seldom showed themselves. The note of this bird is remarkably varied, but may 
be recognized by the metallic 'ting ting' with which it usually commences its 
warble, which is just like a couple of strokes on a small high-toned triangle. It 
also has a peculiar hurried way of singing, as if it were anxious to get to the 
end of its song as soon as possible. At Hjerkiem it was very common also, both 
in the birch scrub and even in the dwarf willow and juniper scrub above the 
birch limit on the fells. I found a nest here with eight eggs, and sat down by 
it to blow one of them. The old birds at once came up and hovered angrily 
round me, ofteu within a yard of me, though the eggs were not at all incubated, 
the female also quite forgetting her usual anxiety for concealment. Not only 
they, but every other Bluethroat within hearing of this excited couple, hurried up 
also, until I must have had about a dozen scolding within ten yards of me at 
once ; the moment I rose, however, they all vanished, like Roderick Dhu's 
warriors, ' where they stood.' The nest was made of the finest grasses, and 
placed in au open space in the birch wood, under a branch of trailing juniper." 

The Bluethroat being, as already noted, au inhabitant of marshy land, it 
usually constructs its nest either in some chance cavit}' in the side of one of the 
many mounds or hummocks which abound on the irregular fjelds of Lapland and 
the tundras of Siberia, or in the more swampy parts of the forest. Naturally it 
is not easily discovered, unless by chance the incubating female is flushed from 
her eggs. 

The nest itself is of loose construction, fashioned somewhat like that of the 
Robin, the materials used being mostly dried grass and rootlets, the cup being 
neatly lined with hair : the five to eight eggs have a greenish ground tint and 
are finely speckled and marbled with rufous-brown. 

The food of this bird consists of small worms, centipedes, spiders, insects and 

50 The Red-Spotted Bluethroat. 

their larvae and small seeds of weeds ; the 3'ouug are fed very largely upon mos- 
quitoes, which the parents capture on the wing, after the manner of Flycatchers. 

Seebohm gives the following full account of its song : — " On its first arrival 
it often warbles in an undertone so low, that you fancy the sound must be 
muffled by the thick tangle of branches in which you think the bird is concealed, 
whilst all the time he is perched on high upon the topmost spray of a young fir, 
his very conspicuousness causing him to escape detection for the moment. His 
first attempts at singing are harsh and grating, like the notes of the Sedge- 
Warbler, or the still harsher ones of the Whitethroat ; these are followed by several 
variations in a louder and rather more melodious tone, repeated over and over 
again, somewhat in the fashion of a Song-Thrush. After this you might fancy 
the little songster was trjdng to mimic the various alarm-notes of all the birds 
he can remember ; the chiz-zit of the Wagtail, the tip-tip-tip of the Blackbird, and 
especially the whit-whit of the ChafiEnch. As he improves in voice, he sings 
louder and longer, until at last he almost approaches the Nightingale in the 
richness of the melody that he pours forth. Sometimes he will sing as he flies 
upwards, descending with expanded wings and tail to alight on the highest bough 
of some low tree, almost exactly as the Tree-pipit does in the meadows of our 
own land. When the females have arrived there comes at the end of his song 
the most metallic notes I have ever heard a bird utter. It is a sort of ting-ting, 
resembling the sound produced by striking a suspended bar of steel with another 
piece of the same metal." 

It is curious that the Rev. H. H. Slater should have stated that the Blue- 
throat ''commences'" its song with the same metallic ting-ting; because, judging 
from the few birds I have kept which uttered metallic sounds, I should have 
expected the latter, and not Seebohm's version, to be the case. 

Gatke in his " Birds of Heligoland " observes :— " One would hardly believe 
that the home of so lovely a creature as the Bluethroat extended so far north as 
the coast of the Polar Sea, particularly as its beautiful azure blue and rusty 
orange dress gives one the impression of its being a native of tropical latitudes. 
As a matter of fact, its life is divided between its Arctic nesting stations and its 
winter quarters, which extend to the hot regions of central Africa and southern Asia. 

The migratory flights of this little bird between regions so widely separated 
have furnished the most interesting material towards a final solution of a hitherto 
open question, viz : " What is the greatest speed attainable by a bird during its 
migration flight ? and have yielded the astonishing result of one hundred and 
eighty geographical miles per hour."* 

• This statemeut has since been called in question by scienlilic Ornithologists. 

The Red-Spottkd Bluethroat. 51 

Mr. Reginald Phillips says: — "This bird is always to be found near a marsh. 
What spot in the fjelds of Norway does not answer to that description ? It is 
always heard on dry spots among short scrub, though hardly ever among trees." 
Avic. Mag., ist ser., vol. iii., p. 72. 

Why one hardly ever sees this lovely bird in captivity* is a puzzle which I 
have never been able to solve ; not only are its plumage and song admitted to be 
well-nigh perfect, but it is itself naturally tame and confiding. Gatke says, for 
instance : — " If, during one's garden occupations, one pays no special attention to 
the bird, or pretends not to notice it, it will for hours long hop around near one, 
at twenty, fifteen, or even a less number of paces off, sometimes in rapid, some- 
times in more measured leaps, catching insects the while ; at each of its many 
pauses it gives a jerk with its tail, which it has raised above its wings, and looks 
aroimd with clear, dark eyes. If, however, it becomes aware of being watched, it 
vanishes swift as lightning, in long bounds, under some shrubs or among some 
bushes, only, however, after a few moments, to again make its appearance as 
simple-hearted as before." 

As regards the practicability of securing plenty of examples of this species, 
Gatke says: — "I remember one occasion, in Ma}', 1845 o^ 1846, when there were 
some sixty of the most beautiful male birds of this species, all picked specimens, 
l3ang on a large flat dish in m}' cellar ; and I might easily have doubled that 
number had I accepted all that were offered me on the same day. Aeuckens 
obtained nearly as man}^ all these birds having been caught by boys, in nets." 

There is therefore not the least reason why this bird should not be as readily 
procurable, and when reconciled to captivity, make as delightful an aviary pet, as 
the universally beloved Pekin Nightingale (Liothrix liiteusj : it ought to be quite 
as cheaply obtainable ; possibly the White-spotted Bluethroat may be purchasable 
from the Dutch dealers, but I never saw a specimen of a Bluethroat exposed in 
the shop of au}' bird-dealer, either in England or on the Continent. Dr. Glinther, 
the late keeper of the Zoological Department in the Natural History Museum, 
informs me that he has had several Bluethroats, but he found them very delicate 
and difficult to keep alive : this may perhaps be the reason for the rarity of this 
species in the market. 

The Bluethroat is sometimes obtainable, for I know of two aviculturists 
who have kept it ; Mr. Abrahams said that it had never come into his hands, 
but Mr. Dresser informs me that he has seen it offered for sale in the market 
of St. Petersburg. 

• An example of the Dutch race was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in I'ebruary 1S96: it was somewhat 
knocked about ; possibly freshly imported. 


52 The Redbreast. 

Family — TURDID.^. Subfamily— Tl 'RDLWF. 

The Redbreast. 

Erithacus rubeiula, LiNN. 

THE Robin breeds throughout Europe northwards to the Arctic circle, east- 
wards across Russia to the Ural Mountains, southwards to the south of 
Spain, the west of Northern Africa, the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores. 
In autumn it migrates southwards to Southern Europe, the Sahara, Eg}'pt, Pales- 
tine, Asia Minor, N.W. Turkestan and Persia. In Great Britain it is generally 
distributed ; it has not however, hitherto, been known to breed in the Shetlands. 

Although called Redbreast the breast is rather tawu}- sienna than red. The 
adult male has the upper parts olivaceous brown, slightly more rudd}- on the 
crown : outer wing-coverts with the tip of the outer web buff ; primaries dark 
ashy grey, with brownish outer webs, secondaries narrowly tipped with whitish ; 
a frontal baud, the lores, ear-coverts, chin, throat, and breast tawn}' sienna, or 
orange chestnut ; bell}' pure white ; flanks and under tail-coverts sand}' brownish 
shading off into bufifish white; tail below ash}- ; bill black, feet brown, iris almost 

The female has the frontal band, lores, and chin more smok}-, and the throat 
of a duller, more sandy, hue excepting at the sides ; the crown of the head and 
the bill are also broader, and the latter shorter, than in the male. 

Nestlings have all the small feathers of the upper and under surfaces spotted 
in the centre with buff and tipped with blackish ; but birds of the j-ear differ but 
little from their parents excepting that their colours are a little paler. 

The habits of this most confiding and fauiiliar little favourite are prett}' 
generally known to bird lovers ; it is fond of liaunting the homes of mankind, 
but more especially in tlic wiutcr-time, when it thereby has a chance of appeasing 
the pangs of hunger ; but man}' pairs reuiaiu to breed in holes and corners of 
garden, orchard or outhouse, and therefore are occasionallj' seen about one's 
premises almost tliroughout the year. It would appear that at the pairing season 
each male R<jbin claims, aud defends against all intruders of his own species, an 
area sufficientlj- large to provide food for liis expected famil}', aud many arc the 
battles which arc fought, even to the death, in the early spring. 


Q 1 



The Redbreast. 53 

In the winter if you care to try the experiment of putting out a trap baited 
with a lively mealworm, you may catch Robin after Robin without difficulty; but, 
in the spring, should you have a nest in your garden, you will see one pair only; 
should a stranger appear, he is chased and attacked immediately ; woe be to him 
if he be the weaker bird, for even his death will not appease the rage of his 
opponent ; mutilation alone being satisfactory to his vengeful eye. 

The only time at which we miss the Redbreast about our homes is during 
the moulting season ; for then it retires to the seclusion of the woods and coverts 
of the country to change its clothing ; but no sooner has it donned its bright 
winter dress than it is with us again. At this season when we gladly welcome 
the reappearance of our trustful little friend, and delight, when gardening, to 
watch it impudentl}' hopping about within a foot of our spade, or even for the 
nonce alighting on it to peep into the earth we have just turned over.* The Latin 
races are capturing this charming bird in m3'riads and slaughtering them for food. 

Excepting when on migration the Robin rarel}^ flies high or for great 
distances. The flight itself is widel}- undulatory ; the moment it alights and 
every half minute or so subsequently if it should have settled on a branch, it 
goes through a spasmodic little stooping action accompanied by a lowering of 
the head, flip of the wings and an upward jerk of the tail : on the earth it 
proceeds by long hops, with a pause and the characteristic epileptic stoop after 
every few hops. 

The building site of this bird varies almost endlessly, fany hollow into which 
it can stuff its nest seems to be welcome ; if built near the habitation of man, it 
may be placed in a corner of an outhouse, or a ledge in a dust-bin, in a 
watering-pot hanging on a nail, a quart pot hanging on a fence, a flower pot in 
a shed, in iv}^ on the house wall, in creepers on a fence, in the side of a bean- 
stack or pile of brush-wood : in all which situations I have found it ; in the 
countr}' an old teapot flung into a plantation may be chosen, or a slight 
depression in the ground below a tree or iv3^-covered stump, a cranny in a rock 
or a deserted chalk or sand-pit, or a hole in a grassy bank : but the Robin's 
favourite nesting-site is at the side of a wide public road bounded on either hand 
by a wood, from which a sloping irregular bank partly covered with ivy and 
bramble descends to the thoroughfare : during the frosts of winter or during 

* When diggiug one day in nij- garden a Robin hopped between my feet alighting on the top of my 
spade, from which, a moment before, I had removed my foot, and there it sat peeping into the hole and then 
glancing sideways up in my face as if asking me to continue to turn over the earth ; a feat which I could 
uot accomplish without disturbing the bird. 

t Mr. Frohawk writes that a pair of Robins built on the bend of a gutter pipe to his house in 1894 and 
1895. at a height of 20 feet from the ground: the pipe was slight!}' concealed by a few entangled sprays of 
Ainpelopsis yeikhii : the situation was identical each year. 

54 The Redbreast. 

heavy rains a large flint or fragment of rock is dislodged and rolls into the road 
leaving a hollow parti}- overhung by ivy or fern : such a site is tolerabl}^ certain 
to be occupied the following spring, and each succeeding year, b}- a pair of 

I believe that of the many Robins which nest in our gardens and houses, 
not one pair in twenty has the pleasure of seeing its 5'oung leave the nest ; 
nearly the whole of them fall victims to cats. As to the cat not eating Robins, 
that I have proved to be the wildest fiction ; a mere rustic legend, no more true 
to fact than the reputed poisonous qualities of the slow-worm and newt. 

The nest of this bird, when placed in holes, is a loosely built structure, but 
is more compacth' formed when situated in iv}^ or creepers, ; the outer walls are 
made of fine roots, bast, or coarse dry grass, bents, and sometimes a few dead 
oak leaves intertwined with hair and moss ; the cup is neatl}- lined with fine 
grasses, fibre and hair: when built in holes moss is largely used and when placed 
in ivy the front wall is largel}' covered with dead oak leaves, giving it somewhat 
the appearance of a Nightingale's nest. 

The eggs var}' in number from four to seven, but there are rarely less than 
five or more than six ; in colour they are usually fleshy white, more or less 
mottled and spotted with sienna-reddish and red-brown ; sometimes the spotting 
is weak, and forms a mere rust}' nebula at the larger end ; occasionally the eggs 
are pure white. 

The note of anxiety is a sharp tick, tick-a-tck, tck, tck ; but when the young 
are out of the nest it is sometimes varied by a veritable croak, reminding one of 
the Nightingale ; a thin plaintive piercing note, a kind of Aiv/ (the same as the 
distress note) is usually repeated at intervals for a short time before the bird 
sings. The song itself is sweet and clear but somewhat plaintive : Henry Steven- 
son, in his " Birds of Norfolk," thus poetically describes it : — " Clear and sharp 
it sounds in the fresh morning air, whilst still the hoar frost hangs upon the 
trees, or glitters on the threads of endless gossamer. The sportsman hears it by 
the covert side as at midday he rests awhile, and seeks refreshment after all his 
toils ; and later still, as he ' homeward plods his weary way,' that simple note, in 
some mysterious manner, awakens recollections of tlic past, wlicu the .same sport 
was shared with dear and absent friends. Again, in the montlis of September 
and October, as the day declines and the evening 'draws in,' how we listen to 
him in our gardens and slirubberies now chattering his little mandibles as he 
jerks up and down on some projecting branch, now singing sweetly, or at short 
intervals waiting for, and answering some neighbouring songster." 

It has been said that llic Robin sings best in the autumn and winter, but 

The Redbreast. 55 

this is not the case ; the song is best heard when nature is asleep, j^et is qnite 
as charming in the spring, when he carols to his mate as she sits upon her 
dappled eggs ; 3'et he often wanders far away at this period and she, disconsolate 
and hungry, calls to him with her far-reaching and melanchol}^ tseet, until he 
reappears and brings some appetizing morsel to reward her patient toil : for it 
must not be supposed that Finches alone feed their hens upon the nest, many 
other birds do the same and often have I seen the Robin do so.* 

The food of the Robin is very varied ; small worms, spiders, centipedes, 
insects and their larvse forming its staple diet during the open months, but it by 
no means despises currants and cherries, and during the winter it largel}^ subsists 
upon berries, probably seeds of weeds, and all kinds of household refuse picked 
up in the farmyard, or purposely thrown out for him by those who love to see 
a little bright life about their homes during the desolate months of the year. 

As a cage-bird the Redbreast is a great favourite, but it is almost a sin to 
confine this trusting little fellow, and it is somewhat risky to turn him out 
into an aviary ; for, although at various times I have kept Robins which 
never molested other birds, individuals have been known to prove dangerous 
companions to less active species. A friend of mine, who turned loose a 
Robin into his aviar}-, lost a Bullfinch, Goldfinch, and Linnet in a single 
night, the Redbreasted little rufiian having drilled a neat hole into the skull 
of each of them. 

My first experience of Robins in captivity was in the winter of 1886-7, 
when I caught twelve and selected the three brightest for pets, letting the 
remainder fl}-. As usual, these birds readily became quite tame, taking worms, 
insects, (Src, from my fingers ; indeed one of them did so on the third day 
after its capture. It soon learned to know me so well that it would follow me 
from one end of its flight cage to the other. I used to sit down and watch 
this bird, and I made a note of the number of beats of the wing which were 
required to take it from one end of its little aviary to the other ; this I 
could only do accurately by ear, but the number hardlj^ ever varied : I then 
calculated that, flj'ing in the same manner, the Robin would have to flap its 
wings 9240 times to cover a mile. Two of these Robins died in the spring, one 
after eight, and the other after nine months' confinement ; the third I gave away 
to a friend. 

In September, 1887, I again caged two Robins, the first of which became 
perfectly tame in about a week and would come at my call to take mealworms 

• The Americati Rluebird is most attentive in this respect, constantlj' and most unselfishly j^iving everv 
insect to his wife, from the time of courtship until the jonng are hatched. The ordinar}- call-note of our 
Robin is a short sharp whistled note. 

56 Thk Nightingale. 

or earthworms from my fingers ; both died of a pulmonary complaint in tlie 
spring of 1889, ^ having turned them into an unheated aviarj' : it thus became 
clear that after eighteen months of comparative warmth, the Robin is unfit to 
cope with the severity of an English winter. 

Since then I have had several of these charming little songsters, but of late 
3'ears the onl}'' one I have had was a cock rescued from a cat, which had broken 
its wing ; it spent the summer of igo6 in one of my aviaries, and sang 
incessantlv ; but in the following winter it died. I always feel that a bird which 
will of its own free-will enter your house and remain for weeks (if you permit 
it) a willing captive, should not be " cribbed, cabined or confined." One autumn, 
after allowing a Robin to take possession of a greenhouse for a week, I was 
finally obliged to drive him out ; on account, not only of the disfigurement of 
my plants, but of his propensity to dig for worms in the flower-pots. 

Famih - TURPII)^. Snhfnmih— TL ^RDIA'. -E. 

The Nightingale. 

Daulias liisciuia, LiNN. 

HOWARD SAUNDERS gives the following as the geographical distribution 
of this species : — " On the Continent, Northern Germany appears to be 
the highest authenticated latitude for our Niglitingale ; south of which, 
except where systematically molested by bird-catchers, it is generally distributed 
throughout Central Europe. In such southern countries as Portugal, Spain, 
Italy, Greece and Turke3% it is ver}' abundant in suitable localities ; breeding also 
in North Africa, Palestine and Asia Minor. Its north-eastern limit in Europe 
appears to be the valley of the Vistula ; and in Russia it is confined to the 
southern provinces." 

The Nightingale visits Great Britain early in .\pril, but does not reach the 

A i^,^J^ 


The Nightingale. 57 

more northern counties until later, it leaves us again in August and September ; 
it has not been known to occur in Ireland, its occurrence in Scotland is doubtful 
and in East Devon, Shropshire and South Yorkshire it is rare ; its distribution 
is somewhat local, but in the woods of some of the southern counties it is very 

The colouring of this species above is russet-brown, the tail-coverts and 
tail being chestnut Below it is pale buff, greyish on the breast and 
flanks and brownish on the axillaries ; under tail-coverts buff, deeper than on 
the centre of throat and abdomen. Bill brown above, pale horn-colour below; 
feet brown ; iris hazel. 

The female has a broader crown and bill than the male, but resembles it in 
colouring. Nestlings are darker and have most of the feathers above spotted 
with golden-brown ; below they are barred with gre3ash-brown. 

The Nightingale is a bird of the woods, its favourite haunts are copses, 
plantations, shrubberies and all timbered land where trees rise amongst dense and 
tangled undergrowth : but open forest is not suited to its somewhat timid and 
skulking nature. As one wanders on the outskirts of some of the almost 
impenetrable Kentish woods, it is no unusual thing to see this russet coloured 
songster dart out from the covert, and after an irregular flight of a few yards 
disappear again amid the thick foliage. 

In its actions the Nightingale resembles the Robin, but it has none of the 
impudent confidence of that bird ; and, though very pugnacious, it is no match for 
the Redbreasted bird ; of which, indeed, I proved that it stands greatly in awe : — 
On one occasion I turned a Nightingale loose in an aviary in which a Robin was 
flying about and, no sooner did they catch sight of one another, than Bob flew 
straight for Philomel, who crouched on the ground in such abject terror, that I 
quickly snatched him up to save his life. (It was a male Philomel !) In a state 
of nature, when scared, the Nightingale always seeks concealment in some tangled 
cover of bramble, hawthorn, scrambling honeysuckle or shady evergreen, uttering 
the while its harsh croak of alarm, and clicking together its mandibles after the 
fashion of other insectivorous birds. On the rare occasions when one catches a 
glimpse of it, in some small clearing in wood or shrubbery, seeking for small 
worms, beetles, or spiders, its behaviour is precisely that of the Robin, the manner 
in which it jumps and jerks at the worm, and having gulped it down, stands for 
a moment with head erect and tail slightly raised ; then bobs, flicks his wings 
and throws up its tail, is in every respect a perfect facsimile of the Redbreast's 
actions. Like luost of the Thrush-tribe the Nightingale turns over dead leaves 
most industriously in the search for concealed insects. 

58 Thk Nightingale. 

Such is ni}- experience of this bird as seen in the Kentish woods; but Henr}' 
Stevenson, speaking of it in Norfolk says: — "Though frequenting the thick cover 
of our groves and shrubberies, the Nightingale is by no means a shy bird, at 
least on its first arrival, but sings fearlessly throughout the day in the most 
exposed situations. In ni}- own garden, bordered on two sides by public roads, I 
have known one sing at intervals throughout the day, on the 3'et leafless branches 
of an almond tree, perfectlv indifferent to the voices and footsteps of the passers 
bv ; and on the ist Mav, 1864, a most exquisite songster stationed himself on a 
small tree, in Mount Plea.sant lane, close to the footpath, where groups of vSunday 
walkers, both morning and afternoon, stopped to listen to its 'sweet descants,' and 
probabl}- for the first time in their lives saw, as well as heard, a Nightingale." 

This last sentence chimes in exactly with ni}^ belief. It is not often easy to 
discover the author of sweet Philomel's discourses ; one needs to look long and 
carefully ; and perchance, at length, one finds that the singer which one has been 
seeking for in the undergrowth, is perched among the smaller branches of some 
lofty elm ; not that it alwa^'s seeks so high a seat ; for, many a time, on a hot 
spring morning I have seen it in full song in a plantation of birch trees grown 
for hop-poles, and among the briars and rank vegetation at their roots I have 
often sought and sometimes found its nest. 

The song of the Nightingale surpasses in melody and charm that of an}^ 
other bird ; it commences tisually with a long-drawn plaintive phivce, pinvee, phivce, 
phwee, repeated from four to six times in succession, and followed bj' a rapid 
water-bubble cliooka, diooka^ cliooka, chooka, chooka, c/iookir, and then perhaps a 
series of clear notes commencing toocy, too, too, too, tooti, more and more rapidl}- 
uttered and increasing in power ; sometimes the song commences with this 
tooey, 3'et more often with the complaining note ; but, without the bird singing 
at one's side, it is impossible to remember, much less to do justice to, this 
brilliant musician ; once heard, it can never be mistaken for an3-thing else ; 
the Blackcap sometimes strives to cop3- the melod3', and does it fairl3f well ; 
but he sings too loud, without the softness of sweet Philomel. On one 
occasion when out with Mr. Frohawk at twilight, on the skirt of a Kentish 
wood, we heard a Song-Thrush and a Blackbird tr3'ing to outdo a Nightingale: 
it was all in vain, all three birds were perfect masters of their art ; the 
Thrush, b3' introducing part of the .song of the Nightingale, much improved 
his own natural performance ; but the Blackbird .scorned to cop3', he swung out 
his full flowing phrases in grand st3-le, and when he knew himself beaten, 
in a royal rage he charged the tree in which the little russet songster sat, 
and drove it from its retreat ; but the Nightingale, nothing daunted, perched 

The Nightingale. 59 

on a branch of another tree some fifty feet away, and then the concert re- 
commenced : never before or since have I heard any of these three species 
sing so superbly. 

The nest of the Nightingale is usually placed in a hole in the ground, less 
frequently in the forking base of a pollard partly overhung by rank grass 
and fern-fronds, rarely in bramble or hawthorn, a foot or more above the 
earth, but in such unusual positions I have only twice found it, its usual 
site is in a depression at the foot of a tree, pollard, or bramble-bush well 
concealed by ferns, grasses or other short undergrowth. On several occasions, 
however, I have found it fully exposed to the sky, among the drifted oak- 
leaves in a small clearing close to some blind keeper's path : when thus 
situated, it appears to the casual pedestrian to be merely a round hole among 
the dead leaves ; but, to the experienced birds'-nester, it is fully revealed at 
a glance. Curiousl}^ enough the rustics who, in a desultory fashion, have 
plundered and destroyed nests from their babyhood upwards, invariably over- 
look all nests which are uierely protected by their environment in this fashion, 
and express the greatest wonder that a townsman should instantly recognize 
as a nest that which they would have passed as a hole in the ground, or a 
bunch of leaves. 

The structure itself is loosel}^ put together, the cup very deep ; the outer 
walls composed of coarse dry flattened bents, rushes, or even fine flags, lined with 
finer bents, root-fibre, and sometimes a little horsehair ; the whole of the outer 
wall is covered and concealed by dead oak-leaves. The eggs, which number from 
four to six, are brownish olive ; rarel}^ with a red-brown zone round the broader 
extremity. Still more rarely, they are bluish green, mottled with reddish brown, 
and somewhat resemble eggs of the Bluethroat : but eggs of this type I have 
never found, and those with the red-brown zone only twice ; the colouring is 
doubtless protective, for the typical eggs look at first glance much like oval 
pebbles at the bottom of a small hole in the earth. 

The call-note is said to be ivate, wate, cur-cur; but this always appeared to 
me to be a note of caution or anger ; the call to the female is either a piercing 
thin key-whistle like that of the Blackbird and Robin, to which she replies in 
the same manner, or a soothing tooey to which she does not reply, at least I 
never heard her ; but perhaps the fact that a human being was in dangerous 
proximity to her nest, may have made her cautious : the alarm note is a low 
guttural sort of croak. The hatching of a brood is signalized by a different note 
which has been rendered clmrr, cliurr. The song of the Nightingale commences 
soon after his arrival on our coasts and continues until the young are hatched, 


6o The Nightingale. 

which is usually in June, after tliis it is only heard in the evening after the 
arduous duty of providing for its family is completed for the da}-. 

As the 3'oung birds hear but little of the song which is their greatest gift, 
during the rearing season, it has been suggested that they may leani it while 
still in the egg ; but this idea seems to me far fetched, and most improbable ; at 
best the unborn chick could barely be capable of appreciating sound for a day or 
two before hatching : but, what seems to me to clinch the matter, is the fact 
that, if taken from the nest when eight daA's old and hand-reared. Nightingales 
in confinement do not sing a note ; or such is m}- experience. I think it far 
more likel}- that the song is partly learnt when the father is at evensi ng and 
most other voices are hushed, for then the Nightingale's melody sounds most 
impressive ; probably the finishing lessons are given in Africa, during our winter 

It has been said that Nightingales do not bear confinement well, 3'et I have 
seen individuals which have lived for years in quite small cages ; I remember 
one which hung against the wall of a house exactly opposite our hotel bedroom 
window at Baden-Baden, about the year 1867 ; we were told that it had been 
caged for several 3'ears, and it sang grandly when we heard it. Man}' ^-ears later 
I saw one at an inn, at Selling in Kent, which had been caged for about eight 
5-ears and still sang well. Everj' year many are exhibited at bird-shows, the 
same specimens being shown in successive years. I have also known an instance 
of this species breeding and rearing j-oung in an aviary. 

The spring-caught Nightingales are those which are sold for songsters, 
those obtained on their autumn migration are said rarel}' to live. In June, 
1887, I secured a nest of five birds nine days old, and (following the usual 
most misleading instructions) I fed them, amongst other things, on finel_v 
chopped raw meat ; consequently they all suffered from violent purging, which 
carried off the two strongest. Guessing that the meat was the cause of 
this disaster, I at once changed their diet, and successfull}' brought up the 
three others upon a mixture of four parts pounded dog-biscuit, four parts 
oat flour, two parts pea-meal, two parts yolk of egg, and one part ants' 
cocoons, the whole well mingled with water into a moist paste. When about 
six weeks old, they began to quarrel about trifles, and pull out one another's 
feathers ; therefore earl}* in August, I placed them in three separate sections of a 
large aviar3'-cage with sliding wire divisions, and here the3' soon recovered their 
plumage. They were ver3- tame, but, like most birds, objected to being handled ; 
although this was frcquentl3- necessar}', as the3' used to get their feet clogged 
with dirt, which the3- never attempted to remove for themselves I now changed 

The Nightingale. 6i 

their diet again ; that upon which I had reared them proving too fattening, now 
that they were full-grown ; I knocked off three parts of the oat-flour and one of 
the pea-meal, substituting finel}- crumbled dry bread. Curiously enough these 
Nightingales would persist in sitting in the direct rays of the sun, the result of 
which was that two of them got heat-apoplexy and lost all interest in everything, 
appearing as if stuffed, neither moving nor eating. I gave them both a warm 
bath after which one of them recovered, but the other died miserably about the 
end of August. It was said to have warbled a little before its attack, but I 
doubt it myself. 

My two remaining Nightingales became wonderfull}' confiding, and would 
come and pick caterpillars or mealworms out of the palm of my hand, but neither 
ever sang a note; one died from a recurrence of sunstroke in August, 1888, and 
the other (a fine male bird) went off in a decline at the end of the same year. 
As pets, hand-reared Nightingales are neither so pretty, nor so charming, as 
Robins ; their outline is pleasing, and their full intelligent eyes give them an 
alert appearance not belied bj^ their sprightly movements ; but one wants some- 
thing more than a russet brown bird which only croaks or tooeys ; a Nightingale 
which sings is a jo}- for ever, but a silent Nightingale is a fraud. 

A caught Nightingale which I had some years later, sang a little in the 
evening, but never attained to the full song ; it seemed healthy, but did not 
live many months. 

There are very few birds which sing their natural song when hand-reared, 
and the Nightingale is not one of them : whether the Robin is, I do not know ; 
I tried to rear a nest of these once, but foolishly gave them some chopped raw 
meat, which killed the entire half dozen in one day. The best mixture for 
successfully rearing all soft-food birds is as follows : — Four parts ants' cocoons, 
three parts yolk of Qgg, one part dr}^ bread-crumbs ; the whole mixed ver}' moist 
at first, but given drier as the birds get older: the young of Butcher-birds, 
Crows, &c., should have raw meat also, because flesh is to them a natural article 
of food. 

This species concludes the Thrush-like birds. (TurdinceJ. 

62 The Whitethroat. 

Family— TURDID.F.. Subfatnily—SYL VIINAl. 

The Whitethroat. 

Sylvia cinerca, BechsT. 

BREEDS abuudantly in Scandinavia and Western Rnssia as far north as 
lat. 65°, and in the Ural Mountains up to lat. 60°, southwards throughout 
Europe to the Mediterranean. It winters in the Canaries and Northern 
Africa, passing through N.E. Africa on migration and extending its wanderings 
down the west coast to Damaraland. Eastwards it occurs in Asia Minor, where 
it is abundant in the nesting-season, in Palestine, where it is partly resident, in 
Persia, Turkestan and South-west Siberia. 

In Great Britain it is very common and generall}- distributed, being most 
rare in the extreme north of Scotland, and unrecorded from the Outer Hebrides. 

The adult male in breeding plumage has the head, neck and upper tail- 
coverts smok}' grey, the remainder of the upper parts greyish brown, deepest on 
wings and tail, the wing-coverts and innermost secondaries broadly margined witli 
rufous ; the outer tail-feathers paler than the remainder, broadly bordered and 
tipped with white. Under surface white, shaded on the breast with vinous-buff 
and on the flanks with buff; under wing-coverts and axillaries smok}- gre}' ; bill 
dark brown, the lower mandible paler, feet pale brown, iris hazel. The female 
differs in the absence of the grey head and upper tail-coverts, and vinous breast. 
After its autumn moult the male resembles tiie female. Young birds are more 
rufous brown. 

The Whitethroat reaches us about the second week in April, though in mild 
seasons I have met with it earlier ; it takes its departure early in September. It 
is essentially a bird of the thicket, hedgerow, shrubbery or garden : in open spots 
overrun with blackberry, honeysuckle, stunted hawthorn, long rank grass and 
nettles 3'ou are almost certain to hear its cheerful little song or its harsh alarm 
note. Though rarelj' met with in dense woods, it abounds in those narrow strips 
of wood known in Kent by the names of sliaivs and s/iavea ; 3'et in lanes, and 
little frequented country roads where the liedges arc untrimmed, and fringed at 
the bottoms with nettles and goose-grass, the Whitethroat is most in evidence ; 
here, among the nettle heads, the flimsy nest is often su.spended ; not that the 

• ^-' 


Plate 16. 

The Whitkthroat. 63 

nest is always flimsy, for I liave taken examples almost as stoutly built as that 
of a Sedge Warbler ; nor is the nest always situated in so apparentl}^ perilous a 
position as a bunch of nettles, for I have often taken it from the top of a clipped 
hawthorn hedge partly overgrown with ivy ; but it is most frecpientl}" found low 
down in bramble or dense but loose vegetation and more often than not near the 
foot of a thick hawthorn hedge. 

The nest is usually Hghtl}- constructed of dried stalks of plants and grasses 
with here and there knots of spider's silk or sheep's wool ; the lining is composed 
of fine bents and horsehair : it is generall}' very deep. Of ten nests in ni}' 
collection, obtained during two consecutive years, two are interesting; one on 
account of its unusual size, the diameter of the interior of the cavit}^ measuring 
nearly three inches, and thickh' lined with black hair ; the other has the walls 
rather thickly edged with sheep's wool intertwined with the grasses. 

The eggs, which usualh- number from four to five, rarely six, vary a good 
deal in ground-tint and in marking; the best known tj'pe is greenish, indistinctly 
mottled with greyish olive, the larger end zoned with spots and specks of slate- 
grc}' and brown ; another not uncommon variet}^ resembles the egg of the Garden 
Warbler excepting for a belt of scattered slate-grey spots towards the larger end, 
a third variety is stone-grey with slightly darker mottling and looks almost like 
a diminutive egg of the Pied Wagtail ; a fourth, somewhat larger, is similarly 
coloured, but spotted and splashed as if with ink ; then there is a dark mottled 
greyish form, almost like a small egg of the Titlark ; a pale ruddy variety with 
greyish mottling, reminding one of the Spotted Flycatcher's egg, and a greenish 
white egg with scattered brown mottling speckled with blackish, and vaguely 
resembling some eggs of Passer; rarely its eggs are almost like enlarged editions 
of those of the Lesser Whitethroat, but with the surface between the blackish 
markings splashed and speckled with olive brown. The above are a few of the 
forms taken by myself, and it would not be difficult to add to the list, indeed an 
assiduous collector never seems to come to the end of variation in this egg, 
either in size, form, ground-tint, or pattern : I have one almost like that of the 
Dartford Warbler, but nearly spherical ; others which, had I not taken them my- 
self, I should have declared to be large eggs of the Sedge Warbler laid by an 
old bird, yet I took them from a most typical flimsy Whitethroat's nest, built in 
nettles : they are almost large enough for eggs of the Garden Warbler. Mau}^ 
even of the best collections give a very poor idea of the modifications to which 
this bird's eggs are liable, and the published descriptions seem, so far as I have 
been able to judge, to have been copied from one ornithological work into another, 
most authors speaking of specimens being pale buff, or huffish white, spotted with 


64 The Whitethroat. 

yello^vish brown and with violet-gre}- shell-markings : it would be rash to assert 
that such eggs never existed, but I must confess that I never saw an3'thing 
approaching this variety among the hundreds which I have examined. 

This species is very largely insectivorous and its 3'oung are reared solely 
upon this diet, caterpillars, spiders, and crane-flies being its favourite articles of 
food ; in the early fruit season it also robs the raspberr\' canes and currant- 
bushes, and is not averse to elder- and blackberries ; earl}^ in August it is said 
also to eat the unripe milky corn. 

The "Nettle Creeper," or "Jolly Whitethroat" as the rustics call this bird, 
has a short but clear and melodious song, and may frequently be heard in the 
countr}- lanes singing from the top of a hedge or one of the lower branches of a 
tree; sometimes you may see him from simple exuberance of joy soaring upwards 
after the manner of a Pipit and presently flinging himself downwards to the 
hedgerow ; if you approach to watch him more closely he slips over to the other 
side of the hedge, rising and falling just ahead of you until convinced of 
j-our pursuit, when he wheels round and returns perhaps to the point from which 
he started ; near to which, perchance, his nest may be concealed. The call-note 
is a clear pinvcet-plnvcct-plnveet, but the alarm-note is a harsh hissing sound. 

The Whitethroat is well-known as a cage-bird and is not especially delicate, 
if supplied with plenty of insect food ; but, if this cannot be provided, he is un- 
able to stand an English winter in an unheated aviar}-, and without question an 
aviary, not a cage, is the onl}- confinement to which any Warbler ought to be 
subjected : doubtless, like all these birds, the Whitethroat does in time become 
reconciled to the close imprisonment of a cage; but no aviculturist, unless a great 
worshipper of bird-shows, would take much pleasure in watching its cramped 
movements in such an enclosure. 

The Whitethroat will sing freely in an aviary, but whether it ever does so 
in a cage I cannot sa}-; a male captured on its arrival in this countr\-, probable- 
would do so, in time ; but a hand-reared bird would be unlikely to give this 
satisfaction to its owner. It is therefore almost certain that caged Whitethroats 
are rarelj' kept excepting for the show-bench ; they would hardl}' be selected for 
their brilliant plumage, and their song would certainly be heard to the greatest 
advantage, to say the least of it, in an aviary. To keep so restless and sprightl}' 
a bird as the Whitethroat in close confinement, merely for the sake of the slight 
profit which it may bring to its owner in the way of prizes, is not only a 
cruelt}-, but a meanness, of which no real bird-lover, who took the trouble to 
reflect upon it, could well be guilty. 




Lesser Whitethroat 

Plate 17. 

The Lesser Whitethroat. 65 

Family— Tl 'RDID.^. Sub/aviilySYL VIIN^. 

The Lesser Whitethroat. 

Sylvia curruca, LiNN. 

THE European race of this species ranges northwards almost to the limit 
of forest-growth ; southwards it breeds throughout nearly the whole of 
temperate Europe, to Southern Europe it is chiefly a summer visitor, but 
Howard Saunders states that " a few pass the winter to the east of Malaga." 
Its usual winter quarters are Northern and Central Africa, Arabia, Palestine, 
where it is also said to breed, and Persia. 

In Great Britain its distribution is decidedly local, being especially so on 
the east and west coasts and in Scotland, whilst in Ireland it is not known 
to occur. 

The adult male has the crown smoky grey, the nape, back and upper tail- 
coverts brownish slate- grey, the wings greyish brown with paler margins to the 
innermost secondaries, the tail-feathers dark brown excepting the outer ones, 
which are greyer and have white outer webs ; lores and ear-coverts dark brown. 
Under surface white, slightly tinged with yellowish brown on the breast and 
flanks; bill dark slate-grey inclining to black, the under mandible with pale base; 
feet slate-grey ; iris pale brown. The female is slightly smaller and duller- 
coloured than the male. Young birds are browner, with better defined pale 
margins to the wing-feathers ; bill and feet paler ; iris hazel. 

The Lesser Whitethroat reaches us late in April or early in May and usually 
leaves us again late in September, but stragglers remain nearly a month later, 
and Mr. Swa3-sland even obtained an example at Brighton in November. 

This species is more skulking in its habits than its larger relative, it 
frequents the margins of dense woods, copses, plantations, shrubberies, rural 
uncultivated hedges, especially those which border little frequented lanes and 
thickly planted gardens. When disturbed it either slips away into the dense 
scrub or flies up into the branches of some lofty tree where it hops restlessly 
from twig to twig uttering an excitable defiant note fsce, tsee, tsce, repeated rapidly 
nine or ten times : if disturbed from its nest, however, its note is more like />/■, 

66 The Lesser Whitethroat. 

kek, kek : the song is a rapid repetition of one whistled note ; it has been called 
a trill, but is too staccato to answer that description ; a few lower notes are 
sometimes added, but even these have a monotonous character. 

The nest is constructed at any time between April and June, but I have 
found more in May than in eitlier of the other months ; it varies considerabl}' in 
its height from the ground, being sometimes placed among the upper twigs of a 
tall hawthorn hedge, sometimes in brambles onl}' a foot or two above the earth ; 
it is also occasionally found in furze-bushes; but I took most of ni}- nests either 
from hedges on the outskirts of woods, or in couutr}' lanes, tlic lieight from the 
ground being about four feet. Mr. Frohawk tells me that the Lesser White- 
throat, when building in shrubberies, very frequently selects the snow-berrj^ as a 
site for its nest : he also reminds me of the frequency with which those found 
by us at various times contained imperfect clutches ; a full clutch being the 
exception, and two to three eggs the rule. Although the bird itself is very sli}', 
I have not observed that it makes any special effort to conceal its nest, and 
many a time when I have found it to contain only one ^%%, and have left it in 
the hope of subsequently securing it with a full clutch, I have found it torn out 
by some village clown. 

To take one ^^% from the nest of the Lesser Whitethroat is sufficient to 
ensure its desertion: even if a similarly coloured small marble is substituted, the 
only result is that the bird ejects the marble and then lets the empt}- nest alone: 
I never knew her to lay a second egg after the first had been abstracted. Like 
the Wren, this little bird will run no risks ; if you interfere with her domestic 
arrangements, she will, for the time, give up housekeeping. 

The structure of the nest is much firmer, and, to ni}' mind, neater than that 
of the Common Whitethroat ; a pretty little cup formed of stout bents and root- 
lets firmly interlaced with the twigs among which it is fixed and interwoven 
here and there with a little fine wool and spiders' cocoons ; it is lined with fine 
bents, root fibre and a little horsehair. The eggs vary in number from four to 
five : when less than four are iucubated, the nest is probably a second one and 
hurriedly constructed, the first having been tampered with. In colouring, the 
eggs var}- much less than those of its larger relative ; indeed the difiPerence in 
ground-colour, is slight, varj-ing from white to cream-colour, the markings diffused 
olive-brown, with underlying silver-grej^ or pale slate spots and overlj'ing dots 
and lines of blackish -brown : some specimens have the spots large and boldly 
defined, especially towards tlie rounded extremity wlicrc tliej- frequent!}' form an 
irregular zone; sometimes the end of tlic egg enclosed hy this zone is suffused 
witli dirt}- buff; at other times the spots, though similar]}- disposed are small and 

The Lesser Whitethroat. 67 

scattered ; and, lastly, in some clutches the spots are rather small and sprinkled 
over the entire surface. 

Although I have found few birds so easily put off the nest before the 
completion of the clutch, no sooner has the hen commenced incubation than she 
becomes a very close sitter, only leaving her eggs at the last moment, when 
satisfied that her death-like inaction has failed to protect them from the intruder; 
even then she does not move far away, but fidgets about in the scrub, scolding; 
in this pastime she is freqiiently accompanied by the male bird which is usually 
within earshot, and promptly appears on the scene to investigate the cause of his 
consort's ill temper. 

. The food of the Lesser Whitethroat consists of small insects and their larvae, 
spiders, soft berries and small fruits, more particularly currants and cherries. Its 
flight is undulating. Mr. Blyth (Field Naturalist, Vol. I. p. 306) says of the 
" babillard or Lesser Whitethroat " : — " He seems — to be always in such high 
spirits as not to know how to contain himself, taking frequently a long circuitous 
flight from tree to tree, and back again a dozen times, seemingly for no other 
purpose than mere exercise ; but he never mounts singing into the air like the 

Gatke speaking of it in Heligoland, says that " Only solitary examples of 
this pretty little songster are met with on this island ; it is the earliest arrival 
among its nearer relatives during the spring migration, almost always making its 
appearance as early as the first days of April, even if the weather is still raw, 
and completes its migration by the middle of May. In the autumn, when it 
occurs still more sparingly, it may be seen from the latter half of September till 
towards the end of October, and at times also somewhat later." 

As a cage-bird the Lesser Whitethroat is not especially interesting ; never- 
theless, if its song is not particular!}- attractive, I agree with Herr Mathias 
Rausch that it has the merit of zeal (Vide ' Gefiederte Welt,' 1891, p. 342) 
" inasmuch as, even in confinement, it sings the whole day long." However, 
I have not personally had the pleasure of keeping a fully adult male of this 
little warbler. 

In June, 1887, I came across a nest of Lesser Whitethroats, evidently only 
about three daj's old ; and, so anxious was I to discover what they would be 
like in captivity, that I took the nest and attempted the difficult task of rearing 
them. With such young birds it was not only necessary to cover them up care- 
fully with warm flannel every evening, after giving them their last meal ; but I 
had to turn out of bed at sunrise to give them their first breakfast ; no pleasant 
task at midsummer ! I persevered, however, feeding them regularly on moistened 


68 ■ The Orphrax Warbler. 

'Abrahams' Food' every hour, until they were old enough to require nourishment 
less frequently. Unhappily (as is often the case, even with the greatest care) 
they got very dirty : a flattened and pointed stick is a poor substitute for the 
parents' bill. In consequence of the matting of their feathers, the two weakest 
died, probably from chill ; the two remaining birds were reared ; but, though 
unnaturally fat, from lack of proper exercise, they were incessantly clamouring 
for food; yet they seemed healthy enougb. About the third week of July, in 
the act of stretching forward to snatch some food which I offered, they fell dead 
from apoplexy : the moral of which is — do not overfeed youngsters because 
they cry. 

Family— TURD I D.^. Subfamily— SYL I TIN^. 

The Orphean Warbler. 

Sylvia Orphea, Temm. 

THE existence of this species in Great Britain rests upon the authority of a 
female said by a bird-stuffer, Graham, of York, to have been shot near 
Wethcrby, and upon a young bird caught in Middlesex, kept in captivity 
for nearly six months and then identified by the late Mr. E. Blyth. Nests and 
eggs supposed to belong to this species have also been taken. 

In spite of these facts, it seems to me that there is, at present, not suflficient 
evidence to justify the admission of the Orphean Warbler into the British list. 
As Mr. Seebohm remarks : — " Under the most favourable circumstances, even 
supposing no error to have crept into the history or identification of any of these 
occurrences, the Orphean Warbler can only be looked upon as a very rare and 
accidental straggler to our islands." 


l^ , 

^ ^.. 






Vr ./^ ♦'< 

Blackcap 2 A. ? 

Plate 13 

The Blackcap. 69 

Faviily— TURD ID. ^. Subfamily SYL VIIN^. 

The Blackcap. 

Sylvia atricapilla, LiNN. 

THIS delightful songster is generally distributed throughout Europe, breeding 
in every country from Scandinavia below 66° N. lat., and extending its 
range southwards to North Africa, south-eastwards to Asia Minor and 
Palestine, and also through the Caucasus to Western Persia. In the Mediter- 
ranean basin it has been obtained at all seasons. Its winter range is supposed 
to extend westward to Senegal and Gambia, and eastward to Nubia and Ab3'ssinia; 
in the Cape Verde Islands, Madeira, the Canaries and Azores it is apparently 

In Great Britain this species is somewhat local, but pretty generally 

The general colouring of the upper parts of the Blackcap in breeding 
plumage is smoky-grey, the upper part of the head jet-black ; the edges of the 
wing and tail feathers brownish ; under parts ash-grey, paler on the chin, the 
centre of abdomen, axillaries and under wing-coverts white; bill dark horn brown; 
feet leaden grey, iris hazel. The female chiefly differs from the male in its 
rufous brown cap and generally somewhat browner colouring. The young male 
in its first plumage resembles the female, but acquires the black cap in the 
autumn without a moult. Both sexes of the adult birds are said to become 
somewhat browner after their autumn moult, but I have proved that the male 
retains its black cap throughout the year, a fact also attested by Mr. John Young 
(Vide Howard Saunders' Manual, p. 48). 

Although partially resident in this country, most of the pairs which breed 
with us arrive from Africa about the middle of April, and leave us again in 

The Blackcap is a bird which delights in wild dense uncultivated land, 
almost impenetrable thickets, tangled hedges, plantations where hawthorn bushes 
alternate with straggling brambles, nettles, and honeysuckle vines ; even in badly 
kept gardens, where roses have run riot among the shrubs : in such spots it 
builds its neat and strongly constructed nest. In the clearings of the Kentish 

70 The Blackcap. 

woods, where the removal of the trees has permitted the wild blackberr}-, brion}', 
convolvulus and man}- other things to sprawl over one another in profusion, 
rendering progression ruinous to clothing, I have often come across the nest of 
this bird : such clearings may either be on the outskirts or some distance within 
a wood. In the former case they are only separated from the main road by 
a hedge, or terminate in a steep bank running downwards to the thorough- 
fare ; in the latter case, they adjoin a rough cart road cut through the 
wood. Little accidental clearings, entered b}- "blind"* keeper's paths, are also 
verj- favourite sites for the nest of this bird. The structure is ver}' strongly 
built (though sometimes the walls are not ver}- thick) and it is firml}- attached 
to the stems of hawthorn, bramble, or other low-growing vegetation in which it 
is located. In form it is a neatly rounded cup, with walls externally composed 
of fine dry tough grass, more rarely with an admixture of straw, internally of 
fine grass, root-fibre and horsehair ; the outside is sometimes interwoven with a 
little moss and always strengthened and bound to the supporting twigs by 
woollen thread or silk from the cocoons of some spider or caterpillar : in some 
nests, however, this thread is ver}- scanty and can only be detected by carefully 
examining them with a lens, whereas in others it gives the outer walls a fluffy 
appearance to the naked e3-e. 

The eggs vary in number from four to five , in size they are tolerably 
uniform, those of young birds being slightly- smaller than those deposited by 
older individuals : in colouring they exhibit considerable variability ; so much so 
that the t3'ro, unacquainted with the bird itself, its habits, or its nest, might 
take specimens which, b}' comparison with imperfect illustrations, he would 
perchance identify as those of the Garden Warbler, Greater Whitethroat, Spotted 
Flycatcher and Titlark : even the experienced birds'-nester unless aware of the 
different character of the structures formed by the two species might hesitate in 
deciding between some eggs of the Blackcap and those of the Garden Warbler. 
The ground- tint of the eggs is either chalk}' white, greenish white, pale buff, 
brownish buff, or flesh pink ; the surface is more or less densel}* spotted, 
blotched and streaked with soft greyish olive, earth-brown, smoky brown, or (in 
the pink eggs) dull mahogau}' red, giving the egg the appearance of having been 
smeared with blood ; above these again are sprinkled little spots and thread-like 
lines of black, or black-brown, often placed in the centre of a patch of the paler 
colouring which the}' serve to intensify. 

The flesh-coloured variety, which somewhat vaguely resembles the egg of the 
Spotted Flycatcher, is rare ; the only two nests purely of this type which I ever 

* That is to say, long disused aud overgrown with moss aud weeds. 

The Blackcap. 71 

obtained, were probably the produce of the same pair of birds in succeeding 
years; the two nests being situated near the top of the same rough hedge outside 
a small wood at Tunstall, in Kent ; the first I took on the 24th May, 1877, the 
second on the 29th Ma}', 1878 : those of the later clutch are slightly larger and 
less pyriform than those of the previous year. Another variety, almost equally 
rare, has the ground-tint brownish buff, so densely mottled and blotched with 
brownish russet that, but for its minute black markings, it might almost be 
mistaken for some eggs of the Tree-Pipit. 

Both sexes incubate, but the male bird is more frequently seen on the nest 
than the female ; it is therefore probable that, as in the case of Doves, the hen 
sleeps on the nest and gives up her place to the cock, for day-duty, after he has 
finished his breakfast, onl}- returning from time to time to enable him to feed. 

The nest of the Blackcap is not onl}' built about a fortnight earlier than 
that of the Garden Warbler ; but, even when not tenanted, may be recognized as 
distinct from it, by its smaller, neater, and far more compact character ; the eggs 
also are frequently slightly smaller, and, even when somewhat like those of 
C. hortensis, differ in the greater prominence of the small black markings on 
their surface. 

The food of this species consists of insects and their larvae, spiders, centi- 
pedes, small fruits and berries, more especially elder- and service-berries, though 
those of the ivy are also eaten by it ; the young are, however, principally fed 
upon small caterpillars. Although, on the Continent, it is said to feed upon ripe 
figs, my experience of it in confinement is, that it will not touch dry figs when 
cut open and placed with the soft food, but red or white currants it devours 
with avidity. 

Next to the Nightingale, the Blackcap is certainly our finest songster, and 
its powers of mimicr}^ as well as its ventriloquial gifts are superior to those of 
that most charming of all feathered vocalists ; its song is at one time full, rich 
and clear as that of a Blackbird, then soft and mellow, again brilliant and 
plaintive as a Robin's notes, or rapid and almost shrill as those of a Wren ; it 
can copy deceptively the notes of many birds, even some portions of the Nightin- 
gale's song, but it is almost too loud in its utterances to produce the latter in 
its purity. Among foreign songsters the only bird which reminds one somewhat 
of our Blackcap is the so-called " Pekin Nightingale" (Liothrix /ufcus), a bird 
evidently far more nearly related to our Hedge Accentor. 

The song of the Blackcap may be heard from the highest branches of a lofty 
tree, from a low shrub, or even from the nest as it sits ; but after the young are 
hatched it ceases, the duty of finding food for its babes occup3'ing the bird's 


j2 The Garden Warbler. 

whole attention. When frightened this species scolds somewhat after the fashion 
of a Whitethroat, and, if flushed from its nest, it remains close bj' hissing 
angrily ; its call-note is said to be a repetition of the word /ac or /<r harshly 
uttered ; but it may be questioned whether this is really the call to its mate ; it 
seems more probable that it is merely a querulous observation, such as many of 
these Warblers indulge in at the approach of man : I am satisfied that its call is 
a soft whistle. 

In the autumn of 1894, I purchased a male Blackcap, which was procured 
for me by Mr. E. P. Staines, who kindly took the trouble to "meat it off"* for 
me. I turned it out into the same aviary with my Redstart and Wagtails, where 
it soon made itself at home ; it used generally to roost upon a nail which had 
been driven into the wall, in the first instance, to support a log-nest. This bird 
in due course became fairly tame ; it was tolerably quick at seizing spiders or 
mealworms and even earwigs, when these were thrown into the aviar3^ In the 
spring it began to record its song on one or two occasions, but I never heard it 
sing out. Eventually a Rosa's Parrakeet bit one of its wings through, and a 
week later it died. 

Family— TURDID^. Subfaviily— S YL VI I N^. 

The Garden Warbler. 

Sylvia horlaisis, Bechst. 

MORE delicate than the Blackcap, the Garden Warbler does not arrive in 
this country until early in May, and towards the end of September it 
departs on its autumn migration. This species breeds locally throughout 
Europe, from about 70° N. in Norway, and 65° N. in Finland and Russia, to the 

• A term applied to the process by which a wild-caught bird is induced to feed upon a soft mixture. 
Many aviculturists make llie mistake of using finely chopped raw meat mixed with bread-crumbs for this 
purpose, hence the term has arisen. 

|~: V 

Garden Warbler s tc> 

Plate 19, 

The Garden Warbler. 73 

shores of the Mediterranean, but it does not appear to winter in Europe ; it is 
not known to breed in Sicily or Greece, but Canon Tristram states that it does 
so in Palestine ; eastwards its range extends to lat. 59° in the Ural Mountains : 
its migration extends through Asia Minor and Egypt to the Sahara, Damaraland, 
the Transvaal and to the east of Cape Colony. 

Generally but very locally distributed over the greater part of England, but 
not recorded as breeding beyond Pembrokeshire and Breconshire in Wales, or in 
the western part of Cornwall ; probabl}^ pretty generally distributed in Scotland, 
although this has been questioned ; it has nevertheless been seen in most of the 
midland and southern counties from Banffshire downwards. In Ireland the Garden 
Warbler is both local and rare, but it has been recorded from Antrim, Fermanagh, 
Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperar}^ and Cork. 

Gatke states that the Garden Warbler though quite common at Heligoland 
during both spring and autumn migrations, is less numerously represented than 
the Whitethroat. 

The Garden Warbler in breeding plumage is olive-brown above, the wings 
and tail slightly darker, the flight feathers with narrow pale margins ; a slightly 
paler streak over the eyes ; under parts dull bufifish white, purer on the bell}', 
browner on the breast, flanks and centre of under tail-coverts. Bill deep brown, 
base of lower mandible paler, feet leaden grey, iris hazel, eyelid white. The 
female is very like the male but is slightly paler and probably has a somewhat 
broader head, but of this I am not certain. After the autumn moult the adult 
birds become more olive above and more buff-coloured below. Young birds 
resemble their parents in winter plumage, but their secondaries have well-marked 
pale margins. The breeding season extends from the end of May to about the 
end of July. 

I have found this species breeding in considerable numbers in North Kent, 
occupying the same localities as the Blackcap, which was also fairly abundant ; I 
am therefore not prepared to endorse Seebohm's statement that "where the Garden 
Warbler is abundant the Blackcap seems always to be rare, and vice versa.'' In 
one sense, indeed, they do not breed together ; the Garden Warbler begins to 
build about a fortnight or three weeks later than the Blackcap, and by the time 
her first c^g is deposited the earlier bird is hatching out or rearing her family. 
Although often heard in the woods, this species is less frequently seen there than 
either the Nightingale or Blackcap ; it is a shy skulking little bird frequenting 
the densest cover, the outskirts of woods where the undergrowth is thick and 
tangled, also the so-called " shaws and shaves " of Kent, almost impenetrable 
copses and plantations, well-timbered gardens, nurseries, and shrubberies ; the 

74 The Garden Warbler. 

fact that the Garden Warbler can be better recognized iu the general!}- wider 
open spaces of the last mentioned haunts, having doubtless earned it the name 
of hortensis. 

The nest of this bird is usually situated in tangled blackberr}-, or low bushes, 
in copses or shrubberies ; but in kitchen gardens it may sometimes be seen in 
gooseberry bushes, or among well-covered pea-sticks: amongst the undergrowth in 
small woods and thickets it is by no means a rare object at the end of May or 
early in June ; though, of course, less common than that of the Whitethroat : I 
have never found it at any great altitude, usually about two or three feet above 
the ground. The structure of the nest is externally somewhat looser and more 
slovenly than that of the Blackcap, but the cup is beautifully formed within; the 
outer walls are formed of dry bents, or goose-grass and other fibrous plants ; 
sometimes mixed with a little moss and wool and lined with fine roots and horse- 
hair. The eggs vary in number from four to five and are tolerably constant in 
their colouring ; they are generally creamy, but sometimes pale greenish white, 
blotched and spotted with pale greyish olive or rufous brownish, with sometimes 
a few underlying spots of pearl grey, and a few blackish brown surface spots or 
hair-lines ; some examples are very faintly marked, with all the markings sinuous 
but arrauged longitudinally and covering the whole surface, others have somewhat 
bolder nebulous patches of spots chiefly confined to the larger end, in others most 
of the markings run together into a vague smoky cap at the larger end, leaving 
the remainder of the ^gg almost white ; but the general effect of a crowd of 
Garden Warbler's eggs impresses one with the conviction that they are extremely 
uniform in tone : some clutches contain small eggs, others large, according to the 
age of the parents; their average size is about the same as those of the Blackcap; 
but the latter bird sometimes lays a much shorter and rounder than I have 
ever found in a Garden Warbler's nest. 

The Garden Warbler sits somewhat closer than the Blackcap, only slipping 
off her eggs at the last moment and then diving down over the edge of the nest, 
so close to your hand that her wing will sometimes brush your fingers ; there is 
therefore no difficulty, apart from the different character of the nest, in making 
certain of the identity of any eggs which you take yourself, and there is only 
one variety of the Blackcap's eggs which could by any chance be mistaken for 
the product of Sylvia hortensis. 

The song of the Garden Warbler is exceedingly pleasing, less rich and full 
than that of the Blackcap ; somewhat more plaintive, though rapidly enunciated ; 
in tone reminding one a little of an extra good Canary, yet without the shrieking 
notes which frequently mar the song of that bird. Excepting when rearing its 

The Garden Warbler. 75 

young, this species sings frequently tlirougliout the day, but whether it sings 
again after the rearing of its single brood (I do not believe in the double- 
broodedness of this bird) I cannot say; probably not: all I can positively state is 
that I have never heard it even as late as July, a month in which, occasionally, 
a late nest may be taken. 

The food of 5". /iorti'?isis in the spring and summer consists very largely of 
spiders, insects and their larvae, the caterpillars of the two smaller cabbage 
butterflies (Ganoris rapce and G. 7iapi) being favourite articles of diet and largely 
used for feeding the nestlings.* In the summer, however, currants and straw- 
berries are not despised by the Garden Warbler, while in the autumn fruits and 
berries seem to become its favourite food. 

The alarm note of the Garden Warbler is a kind of check, check, sometimes 
followed by a guttural sound. Speaking of the Garden Warbler, Stevenson 
observes : — " I have rarely detected the song of this warbler in summer in close 
vicinity to the city, but in autumn, towards the end of August or beginning of 
September, a pair or two, with their little families (and the same may be said 
of the Blackcap and Whitethroat) invariably appear amongst the shrubs in my 
garden, betraying their presence by the same anxious cries so aptly described by 
Mr. Blyth, as ' resembling the sound produced by tapping two small pebbles 
together.' This is evidently intended as a note of warning to the young brood, 
alwa3'S carefully concealed amongst the thick foliage, their whereabouts being 
indicated only by a rapid movement of the leaves, as they search the branches 
for berries and insects." 

The call of the Garden Warbler to its mate is certain to be a soft sound ; 
but I have not specially noted it ; and, in all works on British Birds which I 
have studied the cry of alarm or warning is incorrectly stated to be the call-note: 
the same error is made with regard to many other species, not only of European 
but of foreign birds ; the harsh scolding chatter of the Pekin Nightingale having 
been stated to be its call note, probably because both sexes scold in unison : 
whereas the actual call of that species consists, in the hen — of a single whistled 
note repeated five times, and in the cock — of a short measured song consisting of 
seven or nine notes. 

The Garden Warbler in confinement is certainly more sensitive to cold than 
the Blackcap : a friend of mine who is very fond of fishing, sometimes takes a 
fine net with him which he fixes up across the trout stream ; by this means he 

* These larvae are eaten with avidity by all insectivorous birds ; whereas the caterpillars of the large 
cabbage butterfly (G. Biatsico'J seem to be offensive to nearly all. Why this should be the case, when one 
sees that all three caterpillars eat the same leaves, and produce ver}' similar butterflies (which are eaten 
indiscriminately) is a poser. 

76 The Garden Warbler. 

has, from time to time, secured many interesting birds for stuffing (a proceeding 
with which I have no sympathy, for to my mind a live bird in the bush is far 
preferable to fifty dead birds in the hand). However, in September, 1888, he 
brought me two living birds, one of which was a male Garden Warbler. I turned 
these birds into a large cool aviary, among Waxbills, Manuikins and British 
Finches. The Garden Warbler seemed perfectly content, ate the usual soft food, 
as well as a few mealworms, caterpillars and spiders ; the frost did not appear to 
affect it unpleasantly, and, in the early spring, it sang heartily ever)' day : in 
May its song became less frequent, it grew somewhat listless in its movements, 
yet continued to eat as freely as ever. One morning, in July, 1889, I found it 
dead, and dissection showed that its lungs were seriously affected. I should 
therefore recommend Aviculturists to keep this Warbler in a mild temperature 
during the winter months, and give it as much insect food as possible : it ought, 
moreover, to be kept in an aviary, so that it may be able to take plenty of 
healthful exercise.* 

As an aviary bird, the Garden Warbler is well worth keeping; it is active 
and at the same time capable of being tamed, although somewhat more shy than 
the Blackcap; its song, though inferior to that of the latter species, is infinitely 
superior to that of any of the British Finches, yet that is not saying much for 
it, inasmuch as even the Robin's plaintive little melody is purer in tone and 
more grateful to the ear than that of any of our Finches. 

• Mr. Staines, of I'ciiKf. gave me a second male in July, 1896. which wa.s in perfect liealth at the time of 
penning this article. 





The Barred Warbler. 77 

Family— TURD I D^. Subfamily— SYL VIIN^. 

The Barred Warbler. 

Sylvia nisoria, BechST. 

RESPECTING the distribution of this rare species, Seebohm writes : — 
" Besides South Sweden, it breeds in Germany east of the Rhine, 
Trans3-lvania, South Russia, Persia, and Turkestan, as far east as 
Kashgar. It passes through South-eastern France, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Asia 
Minor, and North-east Africa, as it is said to pass through Nubia in spring and 
autumn, but has not been recorded from the Transvaal. Its alleged occurrence 
in China is probably an instance of mistaken identification." 

The same author, writing in 1883, observes that "The only claim of the 
Barred Warbler to be considered a British bird rests upon a single example, shot 
more than fort}' 3'ears ago near Cambridge — but apparently not brought under 
the notice of Ornithologists until March, 1879, when Prof. Newton exhibited it 
at a meeting of the Zoological Society of London, a record of which may be 
found in the Proceedings for that year, page 219." 

The record referred to by Mr. Seebohm runs as follows : — " This specimen 
was formerly the property of Mr. Germany, for many years the highly-respected 
porter of Queen's College, who in the course of a long life formed a considerable 
collection of birds, nearly all obtained by himself in and near Cambridge, and 
also stuffed by himself. At his death, more than twenty years ago, it passed, 
with many others of his specimens, into the possession of an old friend of his, 
Mr. Elijah Tarrant, of whom Mr. John Robinson, an undergraduate of Trinity 
Hall, bought it about a twelvemonth since. Up to this time no one seems to 
have known what the bird was, though some ingenious person had hazarded the 
suggestion that it was a variety of the Nightingale. Soon after it was seen by 
Mr. Frederick Bond, F.Z.S., who at once recognized it as Sylvia -nisoria, and was 
good enough to advise its being shown to me." 

Prof. Newton then proceeds to point out good and sufficient reasons for 
believing that this specimen actually was obtained in England. Apparently it 
was shot either in spring or early summer : it was skulking in dense foliage and 
was only shot with the greatest difficulty and then at so short a range that a 

78 The Barred Warbler. 

good many of its feathers were knocked out. *The taxidermist who stuffed it 
inserted a glass eye with a pale yellow iris, a clear proof that he must have seen 
the bird very soon after it was shot ; otherwise it is not probable that he would 
have selected a colour which is rare in the family. 

Had the occurrence of this single example been the sole argument in favour 
of regarding the Barred Warbler as British, I should have treated the species as 
a mere chance visitor to our islands, and practically ignored it ; but singularly 
enough, on the very 3'ear after the publication of Mr. Seebohm's observation, 
three specimens were brought to the notice of Zoologists : the first of these, a 
young bird, was shot on August i6th, 1884, near Broadford, in the Isle of Skye, 
by Mr. G. D. Lees ; the second, an immature female, on the 28th of the same 
month, by the Rev. H. H. Slater, who observed it skulking in an elder-hedge by 
a potato-garden in some sand hills on the Yorkshire coast, he stated that the bird 
was very shy and difficult to see ; the third, another immature female, was shot 
by Mr. F. D. Power, of Brixton, on the 4th of September, from scrub at the base 
of Blakeney sandhills, Norfolk. The occurrence of three young examples in one 
year, almost seems to justify the conclusion that this Warbler, when on migration, 
may frequentl}' visit us ; but, owing to its disinclination to show itself in the 
open, may have evaded observation. 

In the last edition of Stevenson's "Birds of Norfolk," edited by Thos. South- 
well, a member of the British Ornithologists' Union, the latter gentleman speaks of 
an example of the Barred Warbler as having been shot at Blakene}^ after easterly 
winds on the loth September, 1888, and he says that this bird on dissection 
proved to be a male. The contents of the stomach consisted largel}- of earwigs. 

This would appear to be distinctly a fifth occurrence of the Barred Warbler 
upon tlie Britisli coasts : .scrub in the vicinity of saudhills seems to be the most 
likely haunt in which to seek the species, whilst August and September are the 
months most favourable for the search ; but it seems a thousand pities that these 
rare birds should not be captured alive, and their habits in captivity studied in 
detail. All that can i)c learnt from the stuffed skin of a Barred Warbler has 
either long been known, or can be equally well studied from skins already in our 
cabinets ; but reall}' to know something of the nature and peculiarities of a bird, 
it must be studied, not only flj'ing freely in its native home, but in a good-sized 
aviary. Lord Lilford has set an example which might, with advantage to Ornith- 
ological science, be well followed b}' man}' other naturalists, and especially those 
with means and leisure. 

When on migration the Barred Warbler reaches Heligoland in Ma}- and June, 

• This specimeu is still iu the possession of Mr. Robinson, who resides at Elterwater, Westmoreland. 

The Barred Warbler. 79 

but Gatke speaks of it as b}- far the rarest of those belonging to German}' which 
are met with on that island; he saj-s: — "The bird is never seen before the middle 
of May, and then only on warm, calm days, and in solitary instances ; nor can it 
be by any means reckoned as a regular annual summer visitant." 

The adult male in breeding plumage is smoky-grey above, the head, rump, 
upper tail-coverts and tail-feathers greyer ; the wings browner ; the wing-coverts, 
innermost secondaries, the feathers on the rump, the upper tail-coverts and the 
outer tail-feathers are margined and tipped with white, and have a blackish subter- 
minal bar ; this is also sometimes the case with the forehead, lower back, and 
scapulars ; the two central tail-feathers are indistinctly barred ; under surface 
gre3'ish white, barred with gr&y, the breast, flanks, thighs, and under tail-coverts 
browner, the flanks somewhat heavily barred ; axillaries and under wing-coverts 
mottled with gre)' and white, bill dark brown, the lower mandible paler at the 
base, feet greyish brown, iris pale yellow. The female is very like the male, but 
slightly browner and with fewer transverse bars. In the autumn the colouring 
becomes browner and the bars on the feathers more pronounced. Young birds 
are browner than adults and are hardl}' barred at all excepting on the under 

Although not unlike the Whitethroat in its habits and even in its song, the 
Barred Warbler is far more shy and skulking, rarely leaving the dense cover of 
briar and brushwood; though not frequently met with in forests, it haunts planta- 
tions, copses, and tangled masses of thorn and blackberry, and from such retreats 
its song may be heard : this, though harsh in some of its notes, is said to be 
almost equal to that of the Garden Warbler and to include tones rich as those of 
the Blackcap, 

The call-note is described as resembling the syllable c/ie^; and the alarm note 
r-r-r-r-r, a harsh, warning cry. 

The food of the Barred Warbler does not materially differ from that of most 
other species of Sylvia; it consists largely of insects, with the addition of fruit 
and berries as soon as these are ripe ; it sometimes captures winged insects in 
the air after the manner of its congeners. 

The nest is usually placed in a thorn-bush in thick cover, and as a rule very 
low down; but one instance is recorded of its being built among the topmost 
twigs of a birch-tree at a height of twenty-five feet above the ground. It is a 
firmly built and somewhat bulky structure, roughly formed externallj' of bents 
and roots intermingled with plant stalks and compacted with spiders' cocoons or 
vegetable down ; the inside is neatly formed, deep and beautifully rounded, the 
lining consisting of fine rootlets, horsehairs, and sometimes cobwebs. 


8o The Barred Warbler. 

The eggs vary from four to six iu number, but five is the usual clutch: they 
are dull huffish white marbled with grey, and are uot unlike those of the Grey 
Wagtail, excepting that they are larger ; sometimes, however, they are marbled 
with brown with underlying grey spots; the colouring being massed especially on 
the larger end. 

Speaking of the song of this species, Herr Mathias Rausch, in the "Gefiederte 
Welt," for July 30th, 1891, observes that "it is just as beautiful and rich in 
charming melodies as that of the Garden Warbler, for the most part flute-like and 
full-toned, frequently indeed intermixed with somewhat rough guttural sounds, yet 
withal distinctly powerful and also more or less intermingled with snatches from 
the song of other birds. Also the song of this bird has a swing peculiar to it, 
which characterizes the species as an original songster." 

" Moreover if reared by hand or trapped when 3-oung, Barred Warblers, 
taught by good cage-birds, certainly often become admirable imitators of the song 
of other birds; but, in the case of old wild-caught examples, this faculty is much 
less perceptible, and for this reason it is hardly fair to reckon them plagiarists." 

Lord Lilford (Coloured figures of Birds of the British Islands) evidently has 
not so high an opinion of the Barred Warbler's vocal attainments; he saj's: — "I 
have three of this species caged at this time of writing ; in attitude, song, and 
general demeanour they very much resemble our Lesser Whitethroat, but are the 
least restless of any Warblers that I have ever kept iu captivity." An adult 
which lived for some months in the possession of Rev. H. A. Macpherson was a 
very shy but active bird. 

Dresser, in his "Birds of Europe," says: — "It is never seen sitting still, but 
appears always moving about. If disturbed, or it sees anything strange, it raises 
the feathers of its head, jerks its tail, and utters a harsh note. It creeps about 
amongst the bushes, hopping about from twig to twig without using its wings. 
It is quarrelsome, and drives intruders from the vicinity of its nest." 

" It sings from early in the morning, except during the heat of the day, 
until late in the evening, and frequently sings when at some height iu the air or 
fluttering from tree to tree." 

D'.KTFORD Warp,! FT- 


The Dartforu Warbler. 8i 

Family— TURDID^. Siibfamily—SYL J7IN^. 

The Dartford Warbler. 

Sylvia ufulata, BODD. 

ALTHOUGH this Warbler has been known to breed in Kent, I have never 
been able to be certain of having seen it, though I have sometimes 
suspected that nests which I have discovered built in furze-bushes, might 
have been the work of this species : whoever the architect was, she slipped away 
so quietly into the dense, prickl}^ cover on my approach, that I could not even 
get a glimpse of her, and only knew of her whereabouts by the movement in 
the furze. 

Howard Saiinders gives the following as the geographical distribution of this 
species: — "Although as a rule a non-migratory species, the Dartford Warbler has 
been observed in Heligoland ; but it is unknown in Northern Germany, Holland, 
or Belgium. Rather rare in the Channel Islands, it is found throughout France 
in suitable localities, especially from the foot of the Western Pyrenees to Provence. 
In man}' parts of Portugal and Spain it is common, and I have watched it 
singing among the orange-gardens of Murcia ; while it nests in the sierras of the 
almost tropical south coast at elevations of from 4,000 to 3,000 feet. In Morocco 
and Algeria it is also resident, and it has been recorded from Lower Egypt, and 
Palestine ; but in Europe its eastern range is not known to extend beyond Italy 
and Sicil}', the bird seldom reaching Malta." 

With regard to its distribution in Great Britain, this author says : — " It is 
now known to breed in nearly all the southern counties, from Cornwall to Kent, 
especiall}' in Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight), Surrey and Sussex ; 
sparingly in the valley of the Thames; perhaps in some of the Midland Counties; 
and, on the sole authority of Mr. C. Dixon, in the Rivelin valley, in the extreme 
south of Yorkshire. It has been observed in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk ; while 
in Suffolk a few probably breed." 

Respecting its occurrence in Heligoland, Gatke says that only two instances 
are recorded, " it having on one occasion been obtained by Reyners, and on the 
other observed by myself, on May 31st, 1851, hopping about in the thorn-hedge 
of a neighbouring garden at only a few paces distant. Unfortunately there being 

82 The Dartford Warbler. 

other gardens behind the hedge in question in which people were occupied at the 
time, I was unable to shoot the bird." 

The adult male above is dark smoky brown, deeper and more slate-coloured 
on the head, wings dark brown, the coverts, inner secondaries, and primaries with 
pale brown outer margins ; tail dark grey, the two outside feathers with white 
outer margins and tips; under surface chestnut reddish, shading into white at the 
centre of lower breast and abdomen ; under tail-coverts gre3-ish ; bill deep horn 
brown, base of lower mandible yellowish ; feet pale brown, iris and eyelid saffron 
yellow. The female is smaller than the male and the underparts are paler. After 
the autumn moult the chin, throat, breast and flanks are spotted and streaked 
with white ; birds of the year are paler above and whiter below than the female. 

The Dartford Warbler is an extremely restless, but at the same time a 
skulking bird; Seebohm's description of its habits can, I think, hardlj' be improved 
on ; he saj'S : — " In summer the Dartford Warbler lives almost entirely in the 
furze-bushes ; hence its local name of Furze- Wren. In winter, thoiigh it luay 
often be seen in its summer haunts, the necessity of procuring food prompts it 
to visit the turnip-fields, or to range along the coast. Its long tail and short 
rounded wings do not seem adapted to extensive flights ; but it has nevertheless 
been twice seen on Heligoland. It is seldom seen on the wing. At Biarritz I 
found them frequenting the reeds on the banks of a small lake. The first sight 
I had of one was that of a little dark bird with a fan-like tail suddenly appearing 
amongst the reeds on the opposite side. Occasionally, as we walked on the bank 
of the lake, we heard a loud, clear, melodious pitch'' -oo repeated once or twice 
amongst the reeds. The note was so musical that for a moment one might 
imagine that a Nightingale was beginning to strike up a tune. Now and then 
we saw the bird appear for a moment above the reeds, as if thrown up bj^ a 
battledore ; but it dropped down again and disappeared as suddenly. I have very 
rarel}' seen so skulking a bird ; once only it flew up from the reeds, and perched 
in a willow near a large patch of furze-bushes. Like most other Warblers this 
bird is very active, scarcely resting for a moment, excepting when warbling its 
hurried little song from the top of a furze-branch. In many of its habits it 
reminds one of Cetti's Warbler. It flits up a furze-bush, dodging in and out 
amongst the side branches in search of insects, perches for a moment on the top- 
most spray ; but before you have had time to get j'our binocular on to it, it has 
caught sight of your movement and drops down into the furze-bush as if shot." 

The nest in Great Britain has always been found concealed amongst dense 
furze, but on the Continent and more especially in the south it is said to be 
placed in broom or heather ; the dead lower branches of the furze are selected as 

The Dartford Warbler, 83 

a building site. In character the nest is small, deep and flimsy ; it is formed 
principally of thin bents, interwoven with stems of goosegrass and moss, a little 
green furze, and wool. 

The eggs vary from four to five and are greenish or bufiish white, mottled 
with olive and spotted with reddish brown ; the marking is more densely 
distributed over the surface than in eggs of the Greater Whitethroat, to which 
in other respects they bear a slight resemblance; they, however, tend to be longer, 
and to my mind would be more aptly likened to very diminutive eggs of the 
Rock Pipit, or to some eggs of the Tree Sparrow. I do not think anyone well 
acquainted with British Birds' eggs would ever confound those of the Dartford 
Warbler and Whitethroat. 

The breeding-season of this species is from April to July, and two broods 
are reared in the j'ear ; the second nest is said to be usually less compact than 
the earlier one ; this is constructed in June, when there is less necessity for a 
warm receptacle for the eggs. 

The food of the Dartford Warbler consists principall}' of insects, and Mr. 
Booth, in the "Zoologist," for 1887, states that it " generall}^ feeds its young on 
the body of a large yellow moth," which he says the parent birds hunted for 
among the lower part of the stems of the foliage. I have little doubt the moth 
intended is one of the common Yellow-underwings fTriphocna iatilhina, orbona, or 
pronuba) which I have frequentl}^ disturbed from furze-bushes in the day-time. In 
the autumn wild berries are also eaten. 

As this species is a fairly meritorious songster there is no doubt that it 
would be an interesting aviary pet; its scolding note is a somewhat harsh cha-cha, 
but its call-note is probably soft and pleasing like that of other Warblers. Its 
actions are sprightly, the tail being expanded as it alights; its flight is rapid and 
undulating, but not powerful. 

There is not the least doubt that this species could be fed in confinement 
upon the mixture which I have recommended for other insectivorous birds, 
supplemented by mealworms, caterpillars, moths, flies, cockroaches, earwigs, and 
spiders ; these last, which are rarely mentioned in works on British Ornithology, 
form a considerable portion of the diet of all insectivorous birds ; they are not 
only easy to capture, easy of digestion (even seeming to have a beneficial effect 
upon birds when out of health) but they are relished much more than any form 
of insect or its larvae, not excluding mealworms : centipedes also are eaten with 
avidity, but not millipedes, and many birds refuse to touch woodlice or only kill 
and leave them. 

The Dartford Warblers which Montagu kept in confinement were taken from 


84 The Golden-Crested Wren. 

the nest and reared by hand. These birds " began to sing with the appearance 
of their first mature feathers, and continued in song all the month of October." 

Family— TURD ID. E. Sub/amily—S YL VIIN^. 

The Golden-Crested Wren. 

Rcgiiliis cristatui, K. L. Kocil. 

PERHAPS to the case of few species are the observations of Herr Gatke 
more applicable than to that of the Gold-crest when he says, speaking of 
the countless myriads of birds which pass over Heligoland on migration, 
and furthermore of this very species : — " The east-to-west migration of the 
Golden-crested Wren in October, 1882, extended in one continuous column, not 
only across the east coast of England and Scotland, but even up to the Faroe 
Islands. When one thinks of numbers of individuals such as these, which cannot 
be grasped b}- human intelligence, it seems absurd to talk of a conceivable 
diminution in the number of birds being effected through the agency of man. In 
one particular respect man no doubt does exert a noticeable influence on the 
numbers of bird-life, not, however, by means of net and gun, but rather by the 
increasing cultivation of the soil, which roots out everj- bush and shrub, great 
or small, as a useless obstacle, and thus robs the bird of even the last natural 
protection of its nest. Having thus driven the poor creatures into distant and 
less densely populated districts, we complain that we no longer hear their merry- 
song, unconscious of the fact tliat wc arc ourselves responsible for the cause." 

This is a point which I have always insisted upon : no Act for the protection 
of wild birds, which does not forbid the wholesale grubbing of woods, and so-called 
" waste land," will ever prevent the diminution of bird-life in our Islands. 

The Gold-crest is generally distributed over Europe in Scandinavia northward 
to the Arctic Circle, aiul in Russia from Arcliaugel and the Ural Mouutuins ; in 

Golden-Crested Wren s 

Plate 22. 

The Golden-Crested Wren. 85 

tlie east, soutliwards to tlie Himalayas and China, and in the west down to the 

Dixon (Jottings about Birds, p. 70) observes : — " It is said that the Gold- 
crest, R. cihtatus (Koch) visits Algeria in winter, but I cannot find any conclusive 
evidence of the fact. It is said regularly to pass Malta on migration in spring 
and autumn." 

In Great Britain it is generally distributed wherever coniferous trees occur, 
and breeds with lis. 

Although the Gold-crest is the smallest British bird, its migratory powers 
are inferior to none, and its capacity for resisting cold so great, that it remains 
with us even in our severest winters : it is a common error to suppose that 
size necessarily accompanies vigour, inasmuch as many of the tiniest birds are 
undoubtedly far more hardy than larger species : as an instance, I would call 
attention to the little Indian Avadavat, which I have proved to be indifferent to 
21 degrees of frost; whereas many of the larger parrots, at anyrate if recently 
imported, as some of my Waxbills had been, would have succumbed to a 
considerably higher temperature. 

The male Gold-crest is olive-green above, more or less suffused with yellowish; 
the crown of the head bright j-ellow in front shading into orange behind and 
bounded by a blackish streak, below which is a greyish-white superciliary streak; 
the wing and tail-feathers are greyish browu, the median and greater wiug-coverts 
edged with white, the primary-coverts being blackish ; secondaries tipped with 
white ; under parts pale grejdsh-brown or greenish-buff, whiter on the abdomen ; 
bill blackish-brown, feet brown, iris hazel. 

The female is less brightly coloured than the male, the crown brown-yellow 
with narrower blackish streak. In the young the crown is slightly darker than 
the back, but shows no trace of yellow or black. 

In many illustrations this bird is represented with a well-defined crest ; but, 
so far as I have seen, the feathers of the crown seem to be erected very slightly, 
if at all ; though, when the little creature looks downwards, the feathers at the 
back of the crown project slightly above those of the nape. Possibly under great 
excitement the feathers of the crown would be partially raised as they are in 
many birds ; but whether, even then, they would stick up like the quills of the 
"prickly porcupine," as artists delight in representing them as doing, is, I think 

Mr. Frohawk, who has had considerable experience of the Gold-crest, tells me 
that in the autumn this species may frequently be met with singly, or in pairs 
(I have often seen it thus in my own garden) ; but in the winter it is generally 

86 The Golden-Crestkd Wren. 

seen in flocks, and often in companj' of Long-tailed Tits. In the latter season it 
hannts pine-forests, as well as hedges ; but in the breeding season plantations of 
spruce and larch are its favourite resorts. The male sings continuously in the 
vicinity of its nest, and if disturbed the old birds creep about incessantly near to 
their home with quivering wings. 

Furthermore, Mr. Frohawk sa3'S that he has never known a Gold-crest to 
erect a crest ; the feathers of the liead are, however, somewhat expanded laterally 
so as to expose the golden stripe in its full beaut}-, this stripe being very narrow 
when the bird is in repose. ]\Ir. Staines, of Penge, who has on several occasions 
attempted to keep the Gold-crest as a cage-bird, confirms Mr. Frohawk's opinion 
in all particulars: he has never seen the bird erect, though he has seen it expand 
its crest. 

Lord Lilford (Birds of Northamptonshire) says: — "The call-note of the Gold- 
crest is peculiar and constantly repeated whilst the birds are on their excursions. 
In very cold weather I have found a family of perhaps a dozen of these little 
birds clustered together for warmth beneath the snow-laden bough of an old yew- 
tree, to the under surface of which the uppermost birds were clinging b}- their 
feet, whilst, as far as I could see, the others clung to them and to one another, 
so as to form a closely packed feathery ball. I happened to notice this bj' chance, 
and, in the gloom of the overhanging boughs, thought it was au old uest, but on 
touching it with the end of a walking-stick, the supposed nest dissolved itself into 
a number of these minute creatures, who did not appear much alarmed, but dis- 
persed themselves on the adjoining boughs, and, no doubt, soon resumed their 
previoiis formation, which I was sorry to have disturbed. Although the nests of the 
Gold-crest are generally placed under the branches of a 3'ew or a fir tree, we have 
twice found them in a thin fence at about five feet from the ground ; the materials 
are soft moss and lichens, wool, a little grass, and a mass of small feathers bj' 
way of lining.* The eggs are of a yellowish-white, very closely spotted or 
clouded with pale rust-colour, and varj- in number from six or seven to ten or 
more ; I once found twelve in a nest." 

A nest in ni}' collection, taken from the under-surface of a j-ew-branch and 
interlaced in tlie terminal feathery leaves, is formed almost entirely of moss, 
compacted witli spiders' silk and one or two small feathers ; the lining appears to 

• Mr. A. T. Mitchell has drawn attention to the fact that, in some parts of Ireland, the Gold-crest "builds 
commonly against the sides of ivv-covercd trees. The nest is not suspended under a branch of fir, as I have 
found it in l-;nj;land, and the nests here are bailly and loosely jnil together." Mr. J. Trumbull states that of 
seventeen ncsls of the Gold-crest found in Co. Dublin, only four were placed beneath the surface of a branch. 
Mr. H. S. Davenport has found half a dozen nests of the Gold-crest "placed against the sides of ivy-clad trees." 
The Rev. H. j\. Mac]dicrson Ii;is also pointed out that the Gold-crest occasionally builds its nest in the middle 
of a furze-bush (Cf. Zool. 1895, pp. 3S5, 431, 44S). 

The Golden-Crested Wren. 87 

consist wholly of small soft feathers. Some eggs which I have seen, were creamy 
white ; others, densely and minutely dusted all over with rusty-reddish ; others 
again, with a deeper rust-red zone, or terminal nebula, at the larger extremit}'. 

The song of the Gold-crest is short, low, but pleasing ; though its call-notes 
are thin and almost as shrill as the notes of a bat. Dixon in describing the song 
calls it eulogistically " a few notes of matchless melody." 

This tin}' bird haunts woods, shrubberies, plantations of fir, larch and other 
conifers, yew-trees in churchj'ards and cemeteries, copses, orchards and gardens. 
In its habits it greath^ resembles the Tits, dropping from spray to twig, turning, 
twisting, closel}' examining ever}' inch of its swaying perch for insect prey, and 
incessantly uttering its high piercing whistle; then, gliding rapidly from the end 
of some feathery spray, it passes on to another tree and recommences its acrobatic 
performances. Like the Tits also, this little bird is wonderfully confiding : one 
autumn whilst standing on a balcony leading by steps into the garden of the 
house which I then inhabited, I heard the shrill note of this species just above 
my head, and looking upwards saw a pair of Gold-crests clambering about over 
a jasmine which I had trained to cover a wire arch above the doorway ; they 
appeared to be quite indifferent to my presence not a foot below them. 

Stevenson, in his " Birds of Norfolk," after speaking of the well ascertained 
fact that thousands of these tiny birds in the autumn come to swell the numbers 
of our residents, observes: — "Perhaps the most striking instance, however, of the 
migration of the Gold-crest, in large numbers, to our eastern coast, was witnessed 
by Captain Longe, of Great Yarmouth, on the morning of the and of November, 
1862. In a letter to myself at the time, he says 'As I was walking to Hemsby, 
about 7-30 when it was just daylight, about half a mile out of Yarmouth, on the 
Caister road, my attention was attracted to a small bush overhanging the marsh 
dyke, which borders the pathway, by the continuous twittering of a small bird. 
On looking closely, I found the bush, small as it was, literally covered with 
Golden-crested Wrens. There was hardly an inch of twig that had not a bird 
on it, and even from my rough attempt at calculation at the time, I feel sure 
there were at least between two and three hundred. Most of them were either 
females or young birds, having a lemon-coloured crest ; they were perfectly tame, 
and although I sat down on the other side of the ditch, within six feet, and 
watched them for some time, they did not attempt to fly away ; but one or more 
would occasionally rise off its perch, hover like a butterfly, and settle again in 
some other position. I went the next morning to look for them, but they were 
all gone. The wind had been easterly, with much fog.'" 

The food of the Gold-crest consists principally of insects, small spiders, &.c.; 


88 Thk Fire-Crested Wren. 

but it eats a few seeds and small berries: in captivit}' insectivorous food and bread- 
crumbs moistened, also boiled potato, cooked the previous day, and finely chopped 
up with yolk of egg, would form a good staple diet ; small mealworms, ants' 
larvae, small caterpillars, flies, and spiders being given when procurable. 

Although sometimes kept in quite small cages, this bird, to be properly 
studied, should be turned loose in a moderately large aviary, planted with firs 
and 3'ews; or at an}' rate with a few pot specimens of these trees standing about; 
but whetlier it be kept in cage or aviary, a snugly lined box should be hung up 
in one corner to which it may retire for warmth at night ; for, although the 
Gold-crest is undoubtedly a hardy bird like the Tits, captivity at best deprives 
it of much of the free exercise which it takes throughout the day when at 
liberty ; this, in conjunction with somewhat unnatural diet, less pure air, and the 
lack of companionship of an}' of its own species, doubtless tend to weaken and 
undermine the constitution of this feathered mite. 

In my opinion a bird which is never seen singly, but at the very least in 
pairs, should not be caged by itself; solitary confinement may not be objectionable 
to a parrot; but to a species which, when not breeding, is seen in family parties, 
small companies, or even in countless myriads, solitary confinement must be in the 
highest degree irksome: an aviary about eight feet square, devoted to a score or so 
of these fairy-like little birds, would be " a thing of beauty and a joy for ever." 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— S YL VI I N^. 

The Fire-Crested Wren. 

Regulus ignicapi/liis, C. L- BrKHM. 

NOT infrequent straggler to the British Isles, the Fire-crest may fully claim 
its title to a place in these pages. Of its geographical distribution 
Howard Saunders writes : — " The Fire-crested Wren has a much less 



Fire-Crested Wren i 

Plate 23. 

The Fire-Crested Wren. 89 

extended range northward tlian its congener, and althongh it appears to have 
straggled to the Faroes, it is unknown in Scandinavia ; barely reaches Denmark ; 
and does not occur to the north-east of the Baltic Provinces of Germany. To 
some parts of the Rhine district it is rather partial in summer ; and, although 
local in its distribution, it breeds in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Central 
and Southern Germany, Greece, Turkey, and Southern Russia. In the Taurus 
Range of Asia Minor, it is more abundant than the Gold-crest. In the mountain 
forests of Algeria, and in some parts of Southern Europe, the Fire-crest is 
resident throughout the year ; its numbers being augmented in the winter by 
migrants from the north." 

Herr Gatke says :— " This species is a little smaller, and b}' reason of its 
black eye-streak, still somewhat more prettily marked bird than the preceding. 
It visits Heligoland almost as regularly as the latter, but invariablj^ in very small 
numbers. In the spring it arrives somewhat sooner, and in the autumn somewhat 
later than R. flavicapilltis — and thus may be said in a sense to open and close the 
migration of the crested Wrens." 

In England specimens of the Fire-crest have been obtained since 1832, when 
a cat slaughtered the first recognized specimen ; the following counties have at 
various times witnessed its destruction : — Cumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lanca- 
shire, N. Wales, Norfolk, Sussex, Kent, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Devonshire, 
Oxon, Cornwall, and the Scilly Islands. One specimen is said to have occurred in 
Scotland in 1848, and one was supposed to have been seen at Tralee, in Ireland; 
but both of these occurrences are considered to be open to doubt. 

In general appearance the Fire-crest greatly resembles the Gold-crest, but 
dififers in its yellowish frontal band, whiter superciliary streak, frequently more 
orange crown, a second black streak passing from the gape through the eye, and 
a third moustachial streak ; the sides of neck and the shoulders washed with 
sulphur yellow; feathers of wings and tail brown, with yellowish-green edges; the 
greater and median wing-coverts tipped with white and the primary coverts dark 
brown ; under parts dull huffish white ; bill blackish brown, feet dark brown, iris 

The female is duller in colouring than the male and has a paler crest ; 
young birds have the crown of the same colour as the rest of the iipper surface, 
only acquiring the yellow colouring after the first moult. 

The habits, haunts and even the nest and eggs of this species are extremely 
like those of its near relative the Gold-crest; the nest is similarly suspended and 
is usually formed of moss felted with spiders' cocoons and thickly lined with 
feathers. If the branch in which it is placed chances to be covered with lichens. 


The Fire-Crested Wren. 

the Fire-crest utilizes these also in the outer walls; in all probability this is done 
simply because the material is at hand; not, as has been suggested, with an}- idea 
of imitating the surroundings of the nest, with a view to its concealment. That 
the use of that which is most easily obtainable, because nearest, does often greatly 
add to the difficul}' of discovering a nest b}- the inexperienced collector, nobodj' 
will deny; but to credit the little architect with deliberate design in the use of 
such material is, in my opinion, utter nonsense: indeed I have seen the nest of a 
Chaffinch in a hedge rendered most conspicuous by a covering of lichen from 
the trunk of a tree a 3'ard or two behind it, and a Wren's nest built of coarse 
dead grass and standing out prominently^ from the moss}' trunk of a tree : both 
of these nests are in ni}- collection. 

Speaking of the habits of the Fire-crest, Seebohm sa3'S : — " Their presence is 
at once betra3-ed by their soft notes, a monotonous zit-zit, which is continually 
uttered as the}' are busily employed feeding on insects under the leaves of the 
overhanging trees, and becomes a rapid z-z-z-zit as they chase each other from tree 
to tree, or fly off in alarm at your movements. If you remain perfectly still they 
will sometimes come and feed close to you, occasionally two or three of them 
within a few feet of your head. It is very curious then to watch their movements. 
They twist in and out among the slender twigs, sometimes with head down and 
sometimes with feet up ; but by far the most curious part of the performance is 
when they come to the end of the twig and examine the under surface of the 
leaves at its extremity. They have nothing to stand upon ; so they flutter more 
like bees than birds from leaf to leaf, their little wings beating so fast that they 
look transparent, their bodies all the time being nearly perpendicular. Of course 
it is only on large-leafed oaks, and the shrubs that form the underwood in the 
garden, that you can examine them closely. In the pine-forest, when all the 
branches for twenty feet are broken off for fuel, you require a glass to see them 
well." (British Birds, vol. i, p. 459). 

Seebohm quotes the following from Dixon's Algerian notes on this species: — 
" The trees are full of life. Here in close company with the rare Algerian Coal 
Tit, the Fire-crest is very common. It is seen in the tall cedar trees, and is 
restless and busy amongst the branches fifty feet above, exploring all the twigs in 
search of its favourite food. The Fire-crest is also almost as common in the 
evergreen-oak forests, searching the lower branches all amongst the lichens and 
tree-moss for insects ; and every now and then its brilliant crest glistens conspic- 
uously in the sunlight. Its note sounds shriller to me than a Gold-crest's ; but 
I think it was quite as familiar and trustful as that other little favourite bird of 
mine. In its motions it puts you in mind of the Willow Wrens ; and when, as I 

The Fire-Crested Wren. 91 

liave sometimes seen it, hanging with one leg from a drooping bough, picking 
out the insects from a bud, it looks precisely like a Tit. Although we were in 
these forests in May, the birds did not seem to have begun to breed." 

Other writers, however, state that the note of the Fire-crest is " not so 
shrill " as that of the commoner species. 

The eggs, although averaging about the same number as those of the Gold- 
crest, are, I believe invariably, redder than even the most rusty eggs of that 
species, the markings usually covering their entire surface. 

Speaking of the nesting of this species, Howard Saunders remarks : — " In 
Germany the branches of a fir-tree are almost invariably selected ; the nest being 
seldom found in pines or larches ; and the same trees are frequented year after 
year. In the above country nesting does not begin before May; but in the south 
of Spain the young are able to fly by the middle of that month. Insects and 
spiders constitute its food." He continues thus: — "In the Pyrenees, with excellent 
opportunities for observing the habits of both species, I noticed that the Fire-crest 
was much more restless and erratic in its movements, dartiug away suddenly 
after a very short stay upon the gorse-bush or tree where it was feeding, and 
being often alone or in parties of two or three at most ; whereas the Gold-crests, 
five or six together, would work steadily round the same bush, and, if I remained 
quiet, would stop there for many minutes." 

Hewitson, in the third edition of his "Eggs of British Birds," states that the 
" Rev. E. H. Brown has watched this species during the summer, near his 
residence at Bio' Norton, in Norfolk, and has no doubt it breeds there." The 
probability is that he was merely misled by brightly coloured examples of the 
Gold-crest, not being aware of the true distinctive characters of the two species : 
at any rate his supposition has not been confirmed. 

In an aviary the Fire-crest might be associated with the Gold-crest and 
would require precisely the same treatment ; but it is not probable that many 
Aviculturists will have an opportunity of obtaining it in this country. Dr. Russ 
says that until recently it was supposed to be impossible to keep the European 
species of Regulus for any length of time, but recently they have been found in 
the care of a considerable number of aviarists ; he, however, considers their 
habituation to confinement difiicult. In disposition they are particularly gentle, 
sociable and peaceable. 

92 The Yellow-Browkd Warbler. 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— SYL J 'IIN^. 

The Yellow-Browed Warbler. 

Phylloscopus supaxiliosus, GmEL. 

MR. Howard Saunders only mentions three examples of this prett}' little 
species as having been obtained in Great Britain: but, in the "Zoologist" 
for December, 1894, Mr. J. E. Harting says: — "On October 8th, Mr. 
Swailes, an observant nurseryman, at Beverley, hearing the note of a small 
warbler which was unfamiliar to him, shot the bird, and sent it for identification 
to Mr. F. Boyes, who pronounced it to be Phylloscopus siipfrciliosus, and on com- 
municating this information, Mr. Swailes found and shot two others in the same 
locality. Mr. Boj'es having reported this interesting occurrence in ' The Field ' 
of October 27th, Mr. J. H. Gurney, in the succeeding issue (Nov. 3rd) announced 
that on Oct. ist one of these little birds was shot on the coast of Norfolk by a 
labouring man, who fired at it merely for the purpose of unloading his gun! As 
ten instances of the occurrence of this species in the British Islands have now 
been made known, its claim to be regarded as a British bird, which for a quarter 
of a centur}- remained doubtful, may now be said to be established."* 

To Aviculturists Mr. Swailes is well-known as a successful breeder of British 
birds in out-door aviaries. 

Touching the distribution of Phylloscopus supciriliosus, Seebohm writes: — "The 
breeding-range of the Yellow-browed Warbler is supposed to be confined to tlie 
pine-forests of North-eastern Siberia, from the valley of the Yenesay eastwards 
to the Pacific, and from the mountains of Lake Baikal northwards to the Arctic 
circle. It passes through Mongolia and North China on migration and winters 
in South China, Assam, Burma, and North-east India. Like some other Siberian 
birds which winter in vSouth-east Asia, a few examples appear more or less 
regularly to take the wrong turning at Yeniseisk, and, instead of accompanying 
the main bod}' of the migratory species, which follow the course of the Angora 
through Lake Baikal into the vallej' of the Auioor, join the smaller stream of 
migration, which flows westwards into Persia and Europe." 

In the spring the adult bird above is olive-green, the rump and upper tuil- 

• Ouc of tlie speciiueus reconleil lij Mr. Swailes has, since, Ijeen prest-nleil l>y liiiii to the Natural 
History Musciiiii. 









Yellow-Browed Warbler 

The Yellow-Browed Warbler. 93 

coverts yellower ; wing-coverts, flights aud tail- feathers brown, edged with olive- 
green, the median and greater wing-coverts broadly tipped with greenish-yellow, 
forming two distinct bands, the secondaries and several of the primaries tipped 
with yellowish-white; a greenish-yellow superciliary stripe which becomes whitish 
behind the ear- coverts ; under-surface white, tinged with greenish-yellow, the 
axillaries, under wing-coverts, and thighs yellowish ; bill dark brown, feet brown, 
iris hazel. After the autumn nioiilt the colouring is brighter and yellower. 
Young birds are greener and have a less defined eye-stripe than adults. 

The home of this little bird is made in the pine-forests of N.E. Siberia, 
where Mr. Seebohm found it very common, he describes its call-note as a plain- 
tive ivtrs/, whereas Gatke says: "This call has the sound of a somewhat long- 
drawn, softl}' intoned 'hjiiph,' and somewhat approaches in character the call-note 
of Anthtis pratcmisy* However, it was reserved for Mr. Seebohm to be the first 
discoverer of the nest of this interesting species on the 26th June, 1877: — "As 
we were walking along a little bird started up near us, and began most per- 
sistently to utter the well-known cry of the Yellow-browed Warbler. As it kept 
flying around us from tree to tree, we naturally came to the conclusion that it 
had a nest near. We searched for some time unsuccessfully, and then retired to 
a short distance, aud sat down upon a tree-trunk to watch. The bird was very 
uneasy, but continually came back to a birch tree, from which it frequently made 
short flights towards the ground, as if it were anxious to return to its nest but 
dare not whilst we were in sight. This went on for about half an hour, when 
we came to the conclusion that the nest must be at the foot of the birch tree, 
and commenced a second search. In less than five minutes I found the nest, 
with six eggs. It was built in a slight tuft of grass, moss and bilberries, semi- 
domed, exactly like the nest of our Willow Warblers. It was composed of dry 
grass and moss, and lined with reindeer-hair. The eggs are pure white in 
ground colour, spotted very thickly at the large end, in the form of an irregular 
zone, with reddish brown, and more sparingly on the remainder of the surface ; 
some of the spots are underlying and paler, but not grey, and on one or two of 
the eggs they are confluent. They measure ■6-iuch in length and ■45-inch in 
breadth. The markings are well defined, like those on the eggs of the Chifichaff; 
but the colour is decidedly more like that of the Willow Warblers." 

Gatke says: — "The conditions which favour the passage of this bird to 
Heligoland are an east wind, particularly a light south-east, and warm sunny 
weather. After its arrival it frequents principally the few tree-like willow shrubs 

* I should judge that Gatke's reudering of bird-uotes was more likely to be accurate than Seebohin's, 
and hccffe (or more probably hweeph) is likely to be a call-note, whereas weest is certainly not. — A.G.B. 

94 Thk Yellow- Browed Warbler. 

in the gardens between the houses of the upper plateau (Oberland). It appears to 
have a special preference for Salix sinitliiania, for which reason I always cultivate 
this species in my garden. It is hardly ever seen on 5. caprea or on elders, but 
likes high thorns and the greater maples (Acer pseudo-platanus). In its manner of 
hopping through the branches of these tree-like bushes and garden-shrubs it 
exactly resembles the Chiffchaff and Willow Wren. In doing so, it does not, 
however, make use of its wings for propelling itself, as the two last-named 
species do incessantly, even when they do not require their wings for the purpose 
of fluttering from one branch to another ; nor does this bird hop about in the 
unsteady, and to all appearance, aimless manner of the latter birds, but progresses 
calmly and gradually from the lower branches to the top of the tree or bush." 

Mr. F. W. Frohawk writes: — "On the ist or 2nd of October, 1895, at 10 
a.m., on one of those beautiful summer-like days we had during the last week of 
September and first week of October, during our stay at West Bucklaud, S. Devon, 
my wife (who is well acquainted with most of our native birds) told me she had 
just seen, in the hedge surrounding the garden at the back of the cottage, some 
little birds which were singing and were new to her, and was sure they were 
something rare. I at once went to the spot and immediately heard the song of 
a bird which was unlike anything I knew, and directly afterwards saw a small 
Warbler hopping from one twig to another in the hedge and taking short flights 
of a few feet from one part of the hedge to another, generally alighting about 
half way up, and then hopping to the top, and singing its little song repeatedly. 
A short distance (onl}- a few yards) away another was singing, and behaving in 
the same way, and two others with precisel}- the same actions, but not singing, 
were with them. All four were of the same species: they appeared to be as nearlj^ 
as possible, intermediate between a Gold-crest and Willow Warbler, so far as I 
could make out the colouring: this was rather difficult to do, on account of viewing 
the birds against the sky, as the hedge was on rather a high bank and thej' kept 
on the outer side of the hedge. They were olive-greyish-green, or rather olive- 
greenish-grey, with under parts lighter and a distinct pale stripe running from the 
beak over the eye and be3'ond it; the wings (basal half) appeared covered by the 
side and flank feathers. The}' reminded me of the Gold-crest, but were not so 
small or so fluff}', they appeared rather more trim in shape, but more plump in 
proportion than the Willow Warbler. The song was well in keeping with the 
little birds and I found no difficulty in noting it, as I repeated it time after time 
with the birds (which appeared very tame) and by many repetitions I was satisfied 
I hit it off" accurately: this enabled my wife to set it to music, which will convey 
the cliaractcr of the bird's simple, but merry and pleasing little song. 

The Yellow-Browed Warbler. 95 

Scherzando. emp. 


Apparently these little strangers were on migration, as I saw nothing more 
of them, although I searched the locality daily afterwards. 

I have little doubt that these birds were Yellow-browed Warblers fPhylloscopus 
supcrciliosus) ; if not, what were they? I do not know if the song of this rare 
little bird has been described, or if any Ornithologist is acquainted with it; if so 
the species might be identified with certainty. As well as I remember these birds 
agreed in size and character with a drawing the late John Hancock showed me, 
made by him from a specimen of the Yellow-browed Warbler which he shot many 
years ago and which was the first British specimen : his drawing represented the 
bird clinging to the flower-head or seeds of a plant, picking the insects from it, 
and he said it looked so like a Gold-crest that he mistook it for that species ; 
but, upon shooting it, found he had gained a prize. 

I regret that I had no means with me at the time of securing a specimen 
out of the four I met with, so as to remove all doubt of the species : I should 
have had no difficulty in obtaining one or more, had I had my catapult at the 
time ; this I find the best thing for collecting such birds as Gold-crests, as it 
damages them so little, and these little birds were so tame that I could easily 
have got one or two of them." 

Since writing the above, Mr. Frohawk obtained skins of the Yellow-browed 
Warbler for illustration on our plate of that species, and at once recognized them 
as the species which he and his wife had seen; thinking, however, that it would 
be as well to make assurance doubly sure, he showed her the drawing for the 
plate as well as the skins, without making any remark; and, directl}- she saw them 
she said — " Why those are the same as the little birds which we saw hopping 
about in the hedge iu Devonshire." It is therefore clear that Mr. Frohawk was 
not mistaken in his original opinion, and that these four specimens may be con- 
fidently added to the list of Yellow-browed Warblers met with in Great Britain. 

Some years later, in the autumn, I watched one of these birds for a consider- 
able time going over a large rose-tree in search of insects, in ni}^ Beckenham 
garden: it was quite near the back of the house, and with a pair of opera glasses 
I was able to identify it with certainty. 


96 The Chiffchaff. 

Family— TURDID^E. Sub/aviily— SYLl IIN^. 

The Chiffchaff. 

Phylloscopiis ru/iis, Bechst. 

A PARTIALLY resident bird in mild winters in the warmer parts of Cornwall, 
but by far the greater number migrates annually from our shores in 
October : this species is, how'cver, the first to return in the spring, its 
monotonous double note being often heard by the middle of Alarch. 

The northward range of the Chiffchaff in Europe extends almost to the 
Arctic circle and eastward to the valley of the Volga, southward to the shores of 
the Mediterranean ; it is a regular winter visitor to Northern and North-eastern 
Africa as far as Abyssinia, as well as to Arabia, Persia, Asia Minor, Palestine and 
Greece : it is resident in the Canary Islands. 

In Great Britain this species is probably more abundant in the south and 
south-west of England, but it is fairly common in suitable localities throughout 
England and Wales ; in Scotland and Ireland it is less frequentl}' met with and 
much more local. 

The adult Chiffchaff in spring plumage is olive-green above, the rump being 
slightl}' yellower ; the wing and tail-feathers are brown, externally edged with 
green ; the flights narrowl}' tipped with white ; a pale yellow superciliary streak 
which becomes white behind the ear-coverts ; the lores and feathers behind the 
eye olive; under surface of body white, slightly greyish on the breast and flanks, 
and faintly washed throughout with greenish-yellow ; the axillaries, under wing- 
coverts, and thighs yellow ; bill dark brown, feet blackish-brown, iris hazel. 
After the autumn moult the entire plumage becomes suffused with buffish-yellow. 
Young birds are somewhat greener than adults and have the superciliary streak 
less defined. 

The song of the Chiffchaff, if such it can be called, must be familiar to 
everj-one who has been in the country, or certainly to all inhabitants of our 
southern counties. In the spring it is well-nigh impossible to ramble anywhere 
near to a wood without hearing its incessant chilj-chij]', JtilJ-clnff, ckiff-chij}' (never 








Chiff Chaff i 

Plate 25. 

The Chiffchaff. 97 

chiff-chaff, as its uarae would lead one to expect) : yet, common as it is, the nest 
of this bird is not by any means so easy to discover as one would suppose.* 

But for its very inferior song, slightly smaller size, duller colouring, weaker 
and more undulating flight, the Chiffchaff might readily be mistaken for the 
Willow- Wren; it is, however, far more a bird of the woods than the latter species, 
often making its home in small clearings far away from the outskirts. Sometimes 
however, the nest is built in small shaws or plantations where the undergrowth 
is dense, and one nest in my collection was taken by my friend, Mr. O. Janson, 
from a cavity in a steep bank just outside one of the Kentish shaws; he was 
searching for nests just ahead of me at the time and showed it to me in situ.\ 

A very beautiful nest, which I illustrated as a frontispiece to my "Handbook 
of British Oology," I found in course of construction on the top of a short mossy 
stump almost buried in a large patch of dead coarse grass in a small clearing, at 
the side of a woodland path some 500 yards from its entrance: The nest itself 
was situated about twenty feet from the path (towards which its back was turned) 
and was so interwoven with the surrounding dead grass that unless I had seen 
the birds carrying materials to it, I should certainly never have noticed anything 
to make me suspect its existence ; I marked the spot by treading a flint into the 
edge of the path, and a week later again visited the spot, when finding that it 
contained four eggs, I took it at once rather than risk the chance of its discovery 
by someone else. 

Lord Lilford's experience of the Chiffchafif's nest in Northamptonshire differs 
somewhat from my Kentish experience of it ; he says that it " is hardly to be 
distinguished from that of the Willow- Wren, but is, I think, more often placed 
at some height from the ground than is the case with that bird." 

Judging from the nests which I have robbed, as well as those which I have 
preserved, I should say that the majority of those of the Chiffchaff were slightly 
higher in proportion to their width and more contracted round the opening than 
those of the Willow- Wren ; the outside also is perhaps more generally decked 
with dead leaves in nests of the former than of the latter species ; but to be 
sure of one's facts, one ought to be able to compare a large number of nests 
from different counties. 

The nest of the Chiffchaff is cave-like, or semi-domed, with a tolerably wide 

* The nonsense that has been written about this bird saying chijj, cheff, chaff is onh- an evidence of the 
fact that the English are even now an imaginative people (I believe this has been denied) ; take away the 
chaff and I will admit that the second syllable is sometimes uttered, though I believe it is only a slip on the 
part of the bird, thus :— - Chiff-chiff, chiffchiff, chiff-cheff, chiff-chiff." 

t I have been criticized for not stating that the nest of the Chiffchaff, although often placed near to or 
on the ground is never placed in it, like that of the Willow Warbler; but the nest here described was placed 
in a hole in the ground, though not in UikI ground. 

98 The Chiffchaff. 

opening; the thickest portion of the structure is at the top, probably with a view 
to protection against rain ; the walls are formed of coarse dead grass-stems inter- 
twined with dead blades of grass, plant-fibre, rootlets, dead as well as skeleton- 
leaves and spiders' cocoons ; the inside is lined with fine rootlets, horsehair and 
a number of feathers carefully smoothed down. The number of eggs varies from 
five to seven, the former being the usual number; in colour they are pure white, 
though when not blown the yolk gives them a pink tinge ; * they are more or 
less dotted or spotted, as a rule, with deep chocolate or pitchy markings ; but 
sometimes these spots are mixed with other larger ones of a sienna red colour, 
with here and there a pale lavender shell spot. Sometimes the spots are chiefl}- 
confined to the larger end, sometimes they form an unequal, oblique, and some- 
what vague belt across the surface, often they are evenly scattered over the entire 
^SS ' ^^^t in spite of all these little modifications there is never the slightest 
difficulty in recognizing, at a glance, the egg of the Chiffchaff, it is as character- 
istic as that of the Lesser Whitethroat. 

The food of this species consists of many kinds of small insects, their larvae, 
and of spiders : it also feeds on elder-berries and currants as soon as these are 
ripe : it seeks its insect food chiefly in the trees, but does not scorn to snatch a 
small beetle or spider from the ground, or to chase a gnat or fl}- in the air. Its 
flight is very undulating and not specially rapid. 

The alarm-note is said to be a zv/a'/ somewhat resembling that of the Willow- 
Wren ; but is not this its call-note t and the other note tr-r-r (to which no title 
has been applied) its alarm or scolding note ? 

In his " Birds of Norfolk," Mr. Stevenson states, on the authority of Messrs. 
Gurney and Fisher, that a low bush, frequently of furze, appears to be a favourite 
localit}' for the nest of this species and that as many as four have been found in 
such places within a few yards. I never knew the nest to occupj' such a site in 
Kent, but birds appear to vary their habits greatly to suit their surroundings. 

I have not tried the Chiffchaff as an aviary bird ; but, unless it be intended 
to breed it, when the furze-bush arrangement might be tried, I should hardl}' 
think this species would pay for its keep : a few Willow- Warblers would be far 
more pleasing in every wa}'. On the other hand, there is no doubt that when 
once accustomed to the usual soft food, the Chiffchaff" would prove hard}' enough 
and its graceful actions would be pleasing, but I doubt if any human being could 

• EgRS wliii'h have been jiarlly incubated lose Ihcir purity of colouring, becouiinj; .somewhat creamj' ; 
but this is not a peculiarity of the Chiffchaff alone ; therefore to describe the egg as cream-coloureil is not 
strictly correct. 

t The little White eyes C/.ostetofis spp.J, which always reminds me of the Willow-Wren on a small scale, 
have a cleir call-note —it///.tf/. 



The Willow- Warulhr. 99 

long retain his senses, if compelled daily, for months together, to listen to the 
everlasting cliiff-chiff, chiff-chiff, cltiff-cliiff of this little bird. Now and again as one 
passes through a wood it is a pleasing change, as the triangle is in a concert; 
but imagine a concert going on for months consisting of no other instrument 
than a triangle ; believe me, even that would be more pleasant than an ever- 
lasting Chiffchaff's song. 

Family— TURD I D^. Subfamily— SYL I 'IIN^. 

The Willow-Warbler. 

Phylloscopus Irochilits, LiNN. 

GENERALLY distributed during the summer and breeding throughout 
Western and Central Europe, southwards as far as the Straits of 
Gibraltar, eastward in Transylvania. It visits South Russia, Turkey, 
Greece, Asia Minor, Persia, and Palestine in winter and on migration ; but it 
passes the winter chiefly in Africa from the Nile south-westwards as far as the 
Cape, and south-eastwards to the Transvaal and Natal. A few, however, winter 
in the south of France and Spain, and a few pass the summer in N.W. Africa. 

In Great Britain the Willow- Warbler is pretty generally distributed and 
abundant, though in Cornwall, Wales and Ireland only locally common ; to the 
Orkneys, Shetlands and Faroes it is apparently a mere straggler. 

This species is a much brighter and prettier bird than the Chififchaff: in 
spring it is olive-green above with the rump yellower ; the wing-coverts are 
olive-brownish, with greener margins, the flights brown with narrow whitish tips; 
and yellowish outer webs ; tail-feathers brown, with whitish inner and yellowish 
outer edges ; a superciliary yellowish streak from the bill over the eye and ear- 
coverts ; under parts yellowish, the chin, centre of throat, abdomen and under 
tail-coverts white; the breast and flanks olivaceous yellow or olivaceous buff; 
the axillaries, under wing-coverts and thighs yellow ; flights and tail below ashy- 


loo Thk Willow-Warbler. 

grey; bill brown, darkest on the culmen, palest below; feet greyish horn -brown, 
iris hazel. The female nearly resembles the male. After the autumn moult the 
colouring, especially in birds of the 3'ear, is so much more yellow, that a neigh- 
bour sent round to me in 1894, to inform me that one of my Canaries had got 
loose and was flying about my garden. I was much tickled when I caught sight 
of it, flitting about a privet hedge at the back of my covered aviar}', catching 
flies. The popular notion is that ever}' yellow bird is a Canar)-. 

The Willow- Wren (so-called) reaches the south of Bngland about the end of 
March, or the first week of April, leaving this countr}' again about the middle of 
September. Soon after its arrival and for about a month prior to its departure 
it may be daily seen in most suburban gardens : I generally see it regularly for 
a week in April and during the latter part of Jul)' and beginning of August ; 
but rarely, if ever, during the remainder of the year unless I go farther afield, 
to furze-clad commons, copses, woods, plantations, or the more secluded parts of 
large gardens. 

I know of no bird more graceful and active than the Willow-Wren; acrobatic 
and confiding as a Coal-tit, 3-et with a more eas}- lighter flight and greater 
control over itself when on the wing ; restless exceedingh-, but most beautiful in 
all its agile movements, whether it be seen clinging to the upright bars of an 
iron garden archway, to the feather}' spray of some conifer, or flitting with rapid 
undulating flight in pursuit of some small winged insect : even when, on rare 
occasions, it drops to the earth in pursuit of some coveted morsel, its Robin-like 
hop is in keeping with its neat trim figure. 

The song of the Willow- Warbler is somewhat shrill, but decidedly pleasing; 
it vaguely reminds one of that of the Chaffinch, but the .scale is irregular, being 
more staccato; though far less melodious it also bears a slight resemblance to the 
song of the common Amaduvade Waxbill ; but differs, as a descending zigzag does 
from a descending spiral, the notes sounding as if flung right and left. 

The nest is frequently placed amongst grass on the ground, or in branches 
close to the ground, and almost hidden by grass and nettles; sometimes, however, 
it is found some feet above the ground, one which I took on the i6th June, 1881, 
was built over two feet above the earth in a wild rose-bush in a large garden at 
Tuustall, in Kent; also in the "Zoologist," for 1878, Mr. E. P. P. Butterfield 
states that in 1876 he observed a nest built between two rocks at a distance of 
three feet, and another in 1878 in a clump of whins two feet from the ground; 
but probably the greatest recorded altitude is that mentioned by Mr. Alston, 
when the nest was built in a hole in a wall nearly seven feet fn)m the ground. 

Tlic nest in form is usually cave-shaped or semi-domed, the thickest portion 

The Willow- Warbler. ioi 

being at tlie top as in the nest of the Chiffchaff; but in 1883, I obtained a very- 
abnormal cup-shaped nest which was built under a gooseberry bush in an orchard; 
the usual arched covering was rendered unnecessary from the fact that a large 
clod of hard earth completely overhung the cup : in all probability this clod had 
been accidentl}' flung over the nest when it was in course of construction and 
the little architect instead of being scared away by the seeming misfortune, had 
utilized it as a time-saver: this nest with its four beautifull}^ spotted eggs is still 
in my collection. 

The nesting materials consist of dry grass, either coarse or fine, mixed with 
fern, dead leaves or moss, and spiders' cocoons ; externally somewhat untidy in 
appearance though firmly compacted: the lining consists of wool, hair, and plenty 
of soft feathers, and has a neat and comfortable appearance. 

The eggs vary in number from four to eight ; but five to six are more 
ixsuall}' found : the}' are pure white, rarely unspotted, sometimes finely speckled 
and distinctly zoned round the larger extremity with rust-red, sometimes promi- 
nently spotted irregularly with the same colour. Apart from their usiiall}' superior 
size, the totally dissimilar colour of the spots would preclude the possibility of 
these eggs being confounded with those of the Chiffchaff. 

Towards the end of July, 1887, a young example of the Willow- Warbler was 
brought to me by two lads of my acquaintance, it had flown into their parents' 
house, probably in pursuit of flies. At first it was very wild, so I turned it into 
a cage, about eighteen inches cubic measure, with a hand-reared Sedge- Warbler. 
The following morning, as I was offering a fly to the latter bird, the Willow- 
Warbler sprang over his back and snatched it from my fingers ; it had become 
perfectly tame in thirt3'-six hours. I mentioned this fact to Dr. Glinther who 
assured me that, such being the case, he was certain (from his own experience) 
the bird would die in a day or two : he could not explain why it was so, but it 
was an invariable rule that, if Warblers became suddenl}' tame soon after capture, 
they never lived long. The following morning my Willow- Wren was sitting 
ruffled up with its head under its wing : but, after swallowing two caterpillars 
and two house-flies, it appeared to recover its spirits and became as lively as at 
first. In the afternoon my son offered it a fl}-, putting his hand into the cage 
and holding the insect between his finger and thumb : the little bird flew down 
upon his hand and took it, then hopped round pecking at his fingers. Half an 
hour later it was found lying dead on the draw- tray of the cage. 

In July, 1889, I trapped two Willow- Wrens in my garden and turned them 
loose in an aviary sixteen feet long ; there they seemed happy enough catching 
flies and spiders ; but they did not seem to understand the soft food, although 

I02 The Wood-Warbler. 

they must have seen other birds eating it : consequeutl}- the}' soou sickened and 
died : since then I have not attempted to catch any others. 

There is no doubt that, in order to get these little birds to eat the soft food, 
the best plan would be to cage them up at first, giving them two food pans, one 
half filled with small mealworms and filled up with the food, so that it would be 
impossible for them to eat the living food without tasting the other ; the second 
pan with soft food only, which they would be certain to peck over in search for 
more insect larvae. The onl}^ alternative, and a risk}' and trying one at best, 
would be to rear your Warblers from the nest ; but theu, in all probability, they 
would never sing. 

Faviily— TURDID/E. Suhfamily—SYL J V/AVE. 

The Wood-Warbler. 

Pliylloscopus si/'i/atrix, BrciisT. 

AS regards the geograpliical distribution of this species on the Continent, I 
cannot do better than quote Howard Saunders : — " The Wood- Wren has 
not yet been proved to visit Norway, but it is found in Sweden as far 
North as Upsala; while it is very common in the Baltic Provinces, rarer in South 
Finland, and a straggler to Archangel. Eastward it can be traced to Kazan, the 
lower valley of the Volga, the Caucasus, and the western shore of the Caspian. 
In Palestine, Asia Minor and Greece, it occurs on migration ; but it breeds in 
Turkey, Transylvania, and Europe generally, although rarely in the extreme 
south ; while in Portugal the bird seems to be almost unknown. It appears 
probable that a few remain during the summer in the mountain forests of the 
Atlas ; the winter migrations extending to the Gold Coast on the west side of 
Africa, and to Abyssinia on the east." 

In P'^ngland it is generally distributed, breeding in many suitable localities ; 
it is very local in Scotland, but in Ireland it is aljsolutely rare. 




- .'* 




i TSSt-'^^''"^ 

Wood Warbler, j 

The Wood- Warbler. 103 

The Wood- Warbler is the largest British species of its genus, and has the 
longest wings. The adult bird, which varies very slightly in colouring throughout 
the year, has the upper surface yellowish-green, the rump and upper tail-coverts 
being most yellow in tint ; the wing-coverts olive-green with the margins of the 
feathers paler ; the flights greyish-brown, externally edged with green and tipped 
with whitish, the innermost secondaries with broader pale margins ; tail greyish- 
brown, the outer webs greenish, and the inner webs pale greyish on the edges. 
From the bill over the eye and beyond it is a broad sulphur-yellow superciliary 
stripe. The under surface is pure white ; the chin, throat and breast suffused 
with sulphur-yellow; the axillaries, under wing-coverts and thighs are also yellow. 
Bill dark brown, the lower mandible paler at the base; feet brown; iris hazel. 

The young bird is slightly more yellow than adults; but the sexes are much 

The Wood- Wren is rarel}' with us until towards the end of April, and in 
September it commences its winter migration ; in its habits it is not unlike its 
congeners, but is more exclusively a bird of the forests and the larger woods, than 
of copses and plantations. Lord Lilford, in his " Birds of Northamptonshire," 
says : — " So far as m^^ experience goes of the Wood- Wren, or Wood- Warbler (as 
this bird is, I think, more generally called) it is foud of woods of high trees, 
especially of beech, beneath which there is little or no undergrowth with the 
exception of occasional tufts of coarse grass in the scattered spots not actually 
overshadowed by the spreading branches of the trees. In these and similar 
localities we occasionally hear, about the beginning of May, a very peculiar note, 
which is described by White, of Selborne, as a ' sibilous grasshopper-like noise : ' 
sibilous it certainly is, but I can perceive no resemblance in it to the cry of the 
grasshopper. A good description will be found in the fourth editiou of Yarrell ; 
but even this fails to convey exactly the sound produced, though I certainly am 
unable to improve upon it, aud can only say that to my ear it has a certain 
resemblance to the sound of the wings of wild ducks when flying overhead, 
though, as stated by Yarrell, it begins slowly, and is more musical than any 
sound produced by mere muscular action can well be. This song is accompanied 
by a quivering of the wings, which are drooped during the performance." 

Mr. Blyth described the song as " Twit, twit, twit, tit, tit, tit, ti-ti-ti-i-i-i, begin- 
ning slow, but gradually becoming quicker and quicker, until it dies away in a 
kind of thrill ; " and Seebohm says :- — " It might be expressed on paper thus — 
chit, chit, chit, chit, chitr, tr-tr-lr-tr-tr-trc. The final trill somewhat resembles the note 
of the Grasshopper Warbler or the lesser Redpole, or the prolonged ' shivering ' 
part oi the song of the Common Wren ; and during its utterance the wings and 


I04 Thh Wood- Warbler. 

tail, if not the whole body of the bird, vibrate with the exertion." Unfortunatel}^ 
when I have heard the bird, I have been too eagerly engaged in search of its nest 
to make notes respecting its song, or I would give my own rendering ; memory 
is a treacherous staff to lean upon, but so far as it serves me in this particular 
instance, I should be inclined to accept Seebohm's rather than Blyth's version, as 
not onl)' appealing to my conviction of its greater accuracy as a reminiscence, but 
as sounding less like a particularly irritating street song. 

I have, several times, found the nest of this species in coarse grass-tussocks, 
or amongst the dead leaves of a small branch, torn off by the wind and half 
hidden by grass and nettle ; always, however, in openings in beech or oak-woods, 
and not far from the outskirts. Unfortunately I never secured any eggs of the 
Wood- Warbler ; the nests which I found having either been only just completed, 
or perchance plundered of their contents ; not, however, by country lads, or they 
would have been torn out and destroyed. 

The nest, like that of its congeners, is semi-domed, and constructed of dead 
grass mixed with leaves and occasionally a little moss; it is lined with horsehair, 
but never with feathers. The eggs number from five to seven and are pure 
white, more or less densely speckled, spotted or blotched with purplish-brown and 
intermixed with numerous shell-spots ; the markings are either scattered broad- 
cast, partly confluent so as to form irregular patches, or are partly collected iuto 
a zone towards the larger end. 

The food of the Wood- Wren consists principally of insects, their larvae, and 
spiders ; but there is no doubt that it also eats elder-berries when procurable. 

The call-note has been described as dce-ur, dtc-ur, but more probably the 
sound is tee-ur, though the call of the Starling certainly sounds like Joey dee-ur, 
liee-ur : it is not easy to distinguish the d from the / sound in a whistled note. 
Touching another sound uttered by this bird, Howard Saunders wTites: — "Sloping 
wooded banks are favourite situations for the nest, which often is not merely on 
the ground, but is actuall}- set in some natural hollow, well concealed by herbage. 
The hen at times sits very close : when fairl}^ beaten out, she will feed in an 
unconcerned manner, uttering a low />/-<> for a quarter of an hour or more ; after 
which she works round to a branch above her nest, drops down abruptl}' and 
enters it in an instant," 

Gatke says that the Wood- Warbler "visits Heligoland only in ver}- isolated 
instances, such few individuals as are met with being seen for the most part in 
warm May days. During its autumn migration — from the middle of Jul}' to the 
middle of August — the bird is much rarer." 

As an aviary bird the Wood- Wren would doubtless be interesting, though 

The Rufous Warbler. 105 

neither specially remarkable for bright colouring or vocal merit; I should however 
expect to find it just as difficult to accustom to a change of diet as the Willow- 
Warbler. I am of opinion that the few examples of phyiloscopus which, from time 
to time, appear at our bird-shows are invariably hand-reared, although Swaysland 
speaks of them as being easily tamed ; and of the present species he observes 
(Cassell's Cage-Birds) " If allowed to fly about the room, its first thought is the 
selection of a perch ; when it has satisfied itself on this point, it will show great 
expertness in catching the flies from off the walls and ceiling, always returning to 
its favourite perch to eat them." Possibly my own want of success in keeping 
the Willow- Warbler may have been due to the fact that my birds were captured 
in July; for it has been asserted that, for some unexplained reason, Warblers 
become more readily accustomed to captivity if caught on their arrival in this 
country than just before or at the season of their departure. Not having captured 
any Warblers in the spring months, I am quite unable to decide the point. 

The two following birds should not, I think, be admitted as British ; each of 
them having only appeared as an accidental straggler on three occasions: — 

Family— TURDW.-E. Sii/>/auii/y-S} Z VIIAL^. 

The Rufous Warbler. 

A'cdon galactodes, Temji. 

A SOUTH European species, of which the first example was shot near 
Brighton by Mr. Swaysland, on September i6th, 1854; the second was 
an imperfect specimen obtained in Devonshire, on September 25th, 1859 ; 
the third was also obtained in Devonshire, on October 12th, 1876. 

io6 The Icterink Warbler. 

Family— TURDID.E. Suh/amily—Sl 'L 1 1IX/R. 

The Icterine Warbler. 

Hypolais iderina, ViElLL. 

A NORTHERN and Central European species, of which the first example was 
killed near Dover, on June 15th, 1848 ; the second in co. Dublin, on June 
8th, 1856; the third in Norfolk, on September nth, 1884. Two other 
examples have now been killed in Norfolk, the last at Cley on the 7th September, 
1896. Others have been obtained subsequently, and I have seen an ^^% received 
in a consignment of eggs from Norfolk which was suspiciously like that of this 

The general colouring of the Icterine Warbler is olive-green ; an indistinct 
yellowish eyebrow stripe ; flights brown, edged and tipped with greenish-white ; 
coverts and innermost secondaries more broadly edged with brownish-white ; tail- 
feathers brown, with indications of transverse bars and narrow pale edges ; under 
parts greenish-3'ellow ; under wing-coverts and thighs flecked with brown ; bill 
dark brown, paler on lower mandible ; eyes hazel ; feet bluish-grey ; sexes much 
alike, but the bills should be compared. 

The uest is usually built in the fork of a small tree eight to ten feet above 
the ground, and is formed of dry grass intermixed with moss, wool, spiders' webs, 
vegetable down, bark, and lichen, and lined with rootlets, bents, and horsehair ; 
four to five, or rarely six, eggs are laid, of pinky-brownish colour, uniformly 
spotted aud occasionally streaked with purplish-brown, sometimes ver}- deep in 
colour ; shell-markings ill-defined. 

The song of this species is somewhat harsh, though strong and varied : to 
compare it with that of the Nightingale, as has been done, is generally regarded 
as a libel on the performance of that most excellent songster. 

It is in the highest degree improbable that either of these species will fall 
into the hands of au}' of the readers of this present work : should thej' have the 
good fortune to meet with them I hope tlial, in the interests both of humanity 
and science they will not shoot them; but, if possible, capture and study them 
living. It is a melancholy fact that almost every rare bird which accidentally 
wanders to our shores is doomed to be shot, for the mere satisfaction of labelling 




The Reed-Warbler. 107 

it as British; the same individual, if shot in the land of its birth, would probably 
be valued at a shilling or less. 

We now come to the Reed- Warblers, whose suspended nests are often taken 
and preserved as ornaments by mere admirers of the beautiful ; without one 
thought of the little architects, or the faintest desire to know anything respecting 

Family— TURDW.-E. Subfamily— S YL VI I N.^. 

The Reed-Warbler. 

Acrocephalus streperus, ViElLL. 

SEEBOHM states that, on the Continent, the Reed- Warbler "is found in 
suitable localities in summer throughout Europe, south of latitude 58°, and 
in Asia Minor, Palestine, South-west Siberia, Turkestan, Persia, Baluchistan, 
and probably in Afghanistan. It is said to be a resident in Greece and the 
surrounding islands ; but it passes through North Africa on migration, and 
winters in Central Africa." 

In Great Britain this species is local, being very common in the southern 
counties, with the exception of Cornwall and the Scilly Islands ; it is also common 
in suitable localities in Wales, Cheshire, and Yorkshire; but local in Lancashire and 
rare in Cumberland. In Scotland it is said to have occurred, and one example 
has been recorded from Ireland ; but these statements require confirmation. 

The Reed- Warbler above is olive-brown suffused with chestnut, more especially 
on the rump and upper tail-coverts ; the innermost secondaries with pale margins ; 
an ill- defined pale-buff superciliary stripe ; under surface cream}'- white, the breast, 
flanks, and under tail-coverts rufous-buff; bill dark horn-brown above, paler below, 
feet slaty-brown, iris brown. The female nearly resembles the male ; both sexes 


io8 The Reed-Warbler. 

are slightl}^ more rufescent after the autumn moult. The j-oung are very tawny 
on the under surface. 

This species reaches Great Britain towards the end of April, and leaves again 
in September. 

Although, as its name implies, the Reed-Warbler mostly frequents reed-grown 
dykes, ponds, or the edges of broads and rivers where reed and sedge abound ; I 
have seen it also fairly abundant in marshy copses in Kent, and in gooseberry 
gardens iu Norfolk ; but always in the vicinity of water : on the other hand Mr. 
R. H. Mitford speaks of its nesting in lilac-trees in his garden at Hampstead. I 
have three nests built in forks of hazel, the first of which is of the normal type, 
and was given to me by the Hon. Walter de Rothschild, who obtained it at Tring; 
the two others were sent to me by Mr. Salter, from Salisbur}-, and decidedly 
approach the nest of the Marsh- Warbler in character, as also do the eggs iu one 
of them ; in both the latter instances, the hazels were growing close to water. 
The nest of this bird is most frequently suspended in reeds ; sometimes the 
attachment is firm, sometimes loose ; the latter arrangement is adopted and the 
nest fastened above a leaf when the level of the water shows great variation 
during the day ; thus, when the water rises it raises the nest, which is built with 
an unusually thick base above the projecting leaves: this I have proved to be the 
case on more than one occasion, and hence Swaysland's belief that the nests in 
the Brighton dykes were constructed with this object has some justification, 
although iu the particular specimens which Mr. Seebohm examined most had a 
leaf projecting close to the nest, both immediately above and below it on one or 
other of the reeds, which would make any movement of the kind impo.ssible. 
From two to four reeds are employed for the suspension of the nest, the most 
frequent number being three. 

I .shall not easily forget my first experience in taking tlie nest of the Reed- 
Warbler : I had heard that tlie species was numerously represented among the 
reeds which grow in abundance at Tong Mill, iu the village of Tong, near 
Sittingbourne. The mill and the adjoining plantation were at that time the 
property of a Mr. Arthur Bennett, a large-hearted man who took an interest in 
Natural Histor}-, .so that I had no difficulty in obtaining permission to search for 
birds' nests wherever I pleased. 

When I approached the stream I could hear the Reed- Warblers in every 
direction, but could only catch a glimpse of them from time to time as they 
emerged for a moment from the densely clustered leaves. Tlic reeds grew most 
thickl}' near to llic ; but at this point the stream was ver\' wide, and the 
birds appeared to \)c chiefly in mid-stream ; so that I was at a loss to know huw 

The Rerd-Warbler. 109 

I should reach their nests which I knew must be built at the time, although 
none were visible from the bank. 

Mr. Bennett now came to the rescue with a long ladder, which he dropped 
across the reed-bed, the foot remaining upon the bank, and the top floating upon 
the water, and partly supported by the broken-down plants. Upon this, grasping 
bundles of reeds on either side, I was able to walk out for some distance, looking 
right and left for nests as I went; and, at the first essay I caught sight of a nest 
about six feet away to the left. 

Walking out on the rungs of a ladder, and depending for one's balance upon 
flexible stems, whilst with ever}' step the water rises an inch or two higher over 
one's boots, is not the most enviable pastime ; although the slight discomfort is 
more than atoued for, by the sight of the first nest of a species not hitherto met 
with: the difficult}' of this mode of progression is, however, by no means so great 
as one would imagine ; but, when the nest is discovered, and it is necessary to 
turn roxmd and retrace one's steps, the task is by no means so easy. 

Having noted the exact spot where my nest was situated, a second throw of 
the ladder soon brought me within reach of it; to my delight the clutch included 
a Cuckoo's egg, but unhappily so much incubated that I made but a poor job of 
preparing that nest for my collection ; however, I still have it. I obtained several 
other nests with fresh eggs in the course of the morning ; but I have never since 
adopted the same method for securing nests of the Reed- Warbler. 

In Kent the birds are extremely common in the dykes, but the nests most 
difficult to find ; indeed it is no uncommon thing to work carefully along half a 
mile of dyke, hearing the weak and monotonoiis song the whole time and turning 
aside the reeds with a long stick continuously, yet not finding a single nest ; 
shortly afterwards, on reaching a reedy duck pond, with an old wooden box for 
a boat, and a pole to scull it withal, one finds the nests easily enough. In the 
reeds bordering the Norfolk broads there is no difficulty in obtaining nests, if one 
rows close along the outer edge of the reed-belt ; also in the narrow dykes 
running into some of the broads they may be found. 

The nest is a strongly constructed, deep cup, formed of dry grasses and bents, 
or the flowering tops of the reeds, with sometimes a little moss and plenty of 
cobweb ; the cup being lined internally with fine grassy fibre or horsehair. 

The nests obtained by Mr. Salter were unusually large and compact, formed 
of carefully selected stout grasses interwoven with some woolly substance (appar- 
ently vegetable), and externally swathed tightly with stronger grasses : the first 
sent to me contained four eggs, somewhat larger and more boldly marked than 
most eggs of this species. I wrote to Mr. Salter asking him to tr}^ and discover 

1 lo The Rekd-Warbler. 

something further respecting it. On the 27th June, he wrote to me from Down- 
ton, as follows : — ■" I will forward, per parcel post, to you, another nest like the 
one you have. I found it last Saturday with three young birds and one egg. I 
went again to-da}^ and found the young ones just ready to fly. I managed to 
shoot one of the old ones with a catapult, but could not manage to get the 
other, although I waited about three hours. The nest was overhanging the water, 
about fifty yards from where I got the other." 

The egg and birds forwarded with this second nest were quite normal, and I 
regretted that specimens had been destroyed in order to prove the fact: however, 
the birds have not died in vain. 

The number of eggs in a clutch varies from five to six ; they are dull 
greenish-white, mottled, or streakily spotted with olive, and with slightly greyer 
shell-markings ; the spots frequeutl}^ collect in a dark zone round the larger end, 
and are rendered richer by the addition of one or two black dots ; but, excepting 
in the paucity or density of the markings, the eggs of this species varj' very 
little ; they alwa3's have a dull, blurred appearance. 

The music of the Reed- Warbler is very poor and weak, with ver}^ little 
variation ; it sounds more like the clamouring of nestlings for food, than the 
love-song of an adult bird ; it has the same querulous peevishness in its tones at 
times, but especially when one is approaching the nest. Some bird-lovers speak 
of it as "pleasing," but so are all the cries of our wild birds, however deficient 
they may be in nlelod)^ 

This bird nevertheless is b}- no means destitute of the powers of mimicry. 
The late Charles A. Witchell, in his fascinating book "The evolution of bird- 
song," pp. 221-2, observes: — "A Reed-Warbler heard by me at Brimscombe, near 
Stroud, imitated many times the cries of the Starling, including the common cr}' 
of alarm (the ca/i emplo}-ed as an alarm to the young) and the song of the Starling. 
A pair of the latter species had a nest within ten j^ards of the singer ; hence I 
was able to compare the imitations (which were excellent) with their originals. 
The Swallow, Wagtail, and House-Sparrow were also abundantly imitated. The 
Swallow's song was capitally rendered seven times successfully. Mr. H. C. Playe 
informs me that he has heard numbers of these birds near O.xford, and that the}' 
are good mimics." 

The food of the Reed- Warbler consists chiefly of the numerous insects and 
their larvre which abound upon the reeds and sedges, of spiders, small worms, 
slugs, and, when the}'^ are ripe, of small fruits and berries. In captivity it would 
probably eat the usual soft food ; Init I sliould hardly think it would make a 
special!}' interesting aviary pet. 




The Marsh-Warbler. i i i 

Family— TURDID^. Subfamily— SYL I VLY.E. 

The Marsh -Warbler. 

Acrocephalus paluslris, BechST. 

IN the summer this species occurs over nearly the whole of Europe south of 
the Baltic ; aud eastwards through Russia and Siberia to Turkestan and 

Persia ; according to Seebohm its occurrence in Asia Minor and Palestine is 
doubtful. It winters in Africa from the Nile probably to Natal. 

In Great Britain the Marsh- Warbler is apparently very local ; the nest has 
been recorded as taken near Bath, in Gloucestershire, in Cambridgeshire and 
Oxon. I am satisfied that a nest which I found, with only one ^^"g, built in the 
reeds near the margin of one of the Ormesby broads was a nest of this species, 
although Ornithologists seem to be agreed that the Marsh-Warbler never frequents 
reeds, but only swampy ground. The fact that this bird is a regular breeding 
species near Taunton, in Somersetshire, was discovered through the acumen of 
Mr. Howard Saunders ; the facts being as follows : — 

An Ornithologist, a Dr. Woodforde, had a collection of birds, and Mr. Howard 
Saunders, who was visiting Mr. Cecil Smith, was taken by him to see this 
collection : amongst the specimens shown to him were a bird with nest and one 
^SS' which no one pi^eviously had been able to recognize, and which Mr. Saunders 
identified as the Marsh- Warbler. No sooner was this fact made known than Mr. 
IMurray Matthew, then Vicar of Bishop's Lydeard, asked Mr. John Marshall, of 
Taunton, if he could get old Coates, the birdcatcher (the discoverer of Dr. Wood- 
forde's bird, nest, and ^g%, twenty years previously) to look about for a nest and 
specimens of this species. Coates being then in Mr. Marshall's employ, went with 
him in search of the nest ; in this they were perfectly successful, so that Mr. 
Marshall was able to distribute both nests and eggs among his friends : two of 
these nests came into the possession of Mr. Seebohm ; who, curiously enough 
seems to credit Mr. Cecil Smith with the discovery of the breeding of the 
species in Taunton, not even mentioning Mr. Marshall's name : the illustrations 
of eggs of this species in the present work are reproductions of careful coloured 
drawings of some of Mr. Marshall's specimens. 


112 The Marsh- Warbler. 

The Marsh -Warbler is barel}' to be distinguished from the Reed- Warbler; but 
differs in its less rnfous, more greenish-olivaceous colouring above ; the feathers 
of the wing with more defined pale borders, the under surface more yellowish in 
tint, the feet brownish flesh-coloured; iris hazel. As Seebohm observes: — "Some 
English Ornithologists, who have never made the personal acquaintance of both 
species, have almost refused to admit their distinctness. No doubt they are very 
closely allied ; but in their song, habits, eggs, and geographical distribution, they 
differ as much as a Blackbird differs from a Thrush." 

Although it has been assumed, rather than proved, that the nest of this 
species is never built in reeds ; it is admitted that it is suspended in the same 
manner amongst nettles, figwort, the greater willow-herb, meadow-sweet, or low 
bushes, usual!}' close to the water : probably the Marsh-Warbler does prefer to 
build in such situations, but either it is not botanist enough to know that it is 
erring when it builds in a reed-bed, or the nest and egg which I found, but 
foolishly trusted a youth to send me when the clutch was completed, was a very- 
aberrant one and a superb copy of a Marsh- Warbler's production. 

Naumann (quoted by Seebohm) says: — "the nest is never placed over water — 
not even over marshy ground. It is always built over firm ground, though this 
is generally somewhat moist, as it cannot help being on the bank of a stream, a 
situation often chosen. But you can always reach the nest drj-shod.* In the 
lowlands I always found it near the large country houses, especially in the gardens 
on the banks of the moats, which sometimes were filled with reeds, and frequentl}' 
contained very little vegetation. The nest was sometimes close to the water, but 
often many steps away from it, in low bushes overgrown with reeds, or in a small 
bush overgrown with reeds, nettles and other plants. It is also said to be found 
in the rape fields, generally in the ditches, seldom deep in the rape itself. The 
Reed- Warbler often breeds near the Marsh-Warbler, sometimes in the same ditch ; 
but the latter bird always builds in the herbage on the bank near the water, 
whilst the former as constantly breeds in the reeds over the water. To this rule 
there seems to be no exception. t The nest is generall}' from one to threi' feet 
from the ground, ver^' seldom nearer, and, I am told on the best authority, never 
on the ground itself." " It is no use to look for the nest in the middle of dense 
thickets, but only on their edges, especially in isolated little bushes close to the 
borders of ditches and moats." 

The nest of the Marsh-Warbler has been compared with that of the Grass- 

• The same statement has hceii made respecting the Sedge-Warbler, many nests of wliich I was only 
able to obtain from a boat. — A.G.B. 

t This is certainly not correct, for I have myself taken the nest of the Reed-Warbler built on moist 
ground near the water. — .-^.G.b. 

The Marsh-Warbler. 113 

hopper- Warbler which it is said greatly to resemble ; it is formed of dr}^ rounded 
grass-stalks, sometimes intermixed with dead grass-leaves, vegetable- fibre and 
cobweb, and lined with finer grass, black horsehair and sometimes a little moss. 
The eggs vary in number from five to seven ; in colouring they are pale blue- 
greenish, or greenish-white, spotted, blotched and streaked with olive-brown, often 
with darker central spots and with violet-grey shell-spots. 

The song of this species is said to be far superior to that of the Reed- 
Warbler ; Gatke hints at its resemblance to that of the Icterine- Warbler, but 
Seebohm says that it recalls that of the Swallow, the Lark, the Tree- Warbler, the 
Nightingale, and the Bluethroat : " not so loud as that of the Nightingale, but 
almost as rich and decidedly more varied."* If this is a correct description, the 
Marsh-Warbler should be greatl}' sought after as a pet. 

Mr. Warde Fowler, in his "Summer Studies of Birds and Books," pp. 78-79, 
thus describes the discovery of the Marsh- Warbler's nest in Switzerland: — "At 
the end of the long street which leads towards the Lake of Brienz, we passed out 
into a spongy-looking and reed}^ tract, lying between the river Aar and some 
cultivated ground — ^just in the same position as the haunt of the Marsh- Warbler 
at Meiringen. Here I proposed that we should follow a footpath which ran along 
the river-side, and seemed likely to lead us to some bits of scrub and wild ground 
which we could see about a quarter of a mile ahead. This scrub turned out to 
consist of some kind of low-growing willow, with ditches and hollows overgrown 
with long grass and meadow-sweet. My friend plunged into it, while I went on 
a little further. Almost directly he called me back, and by the waving of his 
umbrella I saw that he had made some discover}-. It was indeed a discover}', it 
was the nest of a Marsh-Warbler. There was the nest, and there too was the 
bird, which continued to creep about the neighbourhood of the nest for some 
minutes after we had disturbed her. There were four eggs in the nest, the beauty 
of which will always dwell in my memor}'. They were of the same type as the 
Reed- Warblers, but instead of being densely covered with greenish spots, their 
ground colour was greenish-white, with many largish dull purple blotches, gathered 
chiefly at the thicker end. The nest too was specially distinct from that of our 
familiar Oxford bird ; it was of a slighter make, and not so deep, but the stalks 
of the meadow-sweet had been drawn into its structure, much as the reeds or the 
shoots of privet or lilac are used in the nest of the Reed- Warbler. It is worth 
noting that the few nests of this species which have been so far found in 
England, have been usually suspended in meadow-sweet ; and also that they have 

• Mr. W. W. Fowler speaks of its imitating the Tree-Pipit, Lark, Swallow, Sedge-Warbler, Nightingale, 
Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Great-Tit, White-Wagtail, &c., and he says that it sings best from six till ten in the 
morning. A charming paper ou the JIarsh-Warbler's nesting habits appeared in the Zoologist, 1896, pp. 286-288. 

114 '^'^'■' ^Jarsh-Warulkr. 

never, so far as I know, been fonnd immediately over water, bnt at a little 
distance from it, and not very far from cnltivated ground. We took one egg 
only, and after some further search returned to the village, and went on our way 
to Meiringen, where we were to sleep that night." 

I do not doubt that the usual habit of the Marsh- Warbler is to build its 
nest above moist ground and not over water ; but to anyone who has nested year 
after year for any considerable period, the fact that there is no rule without 
exceptions is found to be especially true in relation to nesting sites. It is most 
unusual for a Spotted Flycatcher to build in a hole in a wall, and for a Wren to 
form its domed nest in a box, yet I have obtained the former and m\- friend Frohawk 
the latter. That the Marsh- Warbler, therefore, should occasionally follow the habit 
of its very close relation the Reed- Warbler, is no more than might be expected. 

The food of the Marsh- Warbler consists largeh' of insects and spiders, but it 
also eats elder-berries and small fruits in their season. 

The JNIarsh-Warbler is said to reach its breeding-grounds about the middle 
of May, and to leave them late in August. Herr Gatke, speaking of it in 
Heligoland, sa3's : — " This species * * * was in former 3-ears met with far more 
frequently in Heligoland than is the case now. As regards numbers, too, it was 
far better represented than the preceding species (the Reed- Warbler) — a relation 
which obtains even at the present da}- in regard to the few individuals still 
visiting the island." 

" Further, before the period under consideration, the spring and summer 
months were almost invariably fine and warm, with a prevalence of south-easterl}' 
winds, so that in April and May of almost every year the island used to teem 
with Sylvia; and other small birds ; indeed there were many days on which one 
might have been able to secure more than a hundred Bluethroats (Sylvia siucicaj, 
and some twenty or more examples of 5. hypolais and S. palustris. Since then, on 
the other hand, our spring and summer is almost alwaj-s cold, with raw and drj' 
winds from the north, and the number of these Sylvia, and of other both smaller 
and larger species which put in an appearance at these seasons, has dwindled to 
the slenderest proportions, so that now the two last named species are seen 
perhaps not more than twice or three times in the course of a spring migration." 

Although I have not heard of this species having been exhibited as a cage- 
bird in England, it is recorded among the species sent to the sixth exhibition of 
the " Ornis " Society in Berliu. Mathias Rausch, in the " Gefiederte Welt" for 
1 89 1, in an exhaustive article on the European Song-birds, states that this bird 
is very prolific in imitations of the songs of other species, frequently even more 
versatile thau the Icterine Warbler, though in strength of voice, in purity and 

The Great Reed- Warbler. 115 

flute-like character of tone, it stands a good distance behind it. Probably Herr 
Rausch bases his remarks chiefl}' on wild specimens ; but it is quite possible that 
he may also have heard them in captivity. 

Family-^ Tl U^DID.-E. S,<hfamily--SYL VIIN^. 

The Great Reed-Warbler. 

Acroccplialu$ lurdoides, MeyER. 

ACCORDING to Seebohm, the only satisfactorily authenticated instance of 
the occurrence of this species in our islands is one shot near Newcastle, 
on the 28th May, 1847, by Mr. Thomas Robson. Howard Saunders, how- 
ever, evidently believes in three other British killed specimens, one shot near 
Wingham, in Kent, on September 14th, 1881, one near Ringwood, Hampshire, on 
June 3rd, 1884, and one shot near Sittingbourne, in Kent, at some unknown date: 
he also believes in the existence of a specimen which frequented the Norfolk broads. 
As the species breeds annually at Calais, and is common both in Holland and 
Belgium, Mr. Saunders considers it a marvel that its visits to our shores are so 
rare. At best this can only be regarded as a casual wanderer to Great Britain. 


ii6 Thk Sedge- Warbler. 

Family— TURDID.E. Sub/amily—SYL JlIhL^. 

The Sedge-Warbler. 

Acrocephalus pJiragtnitis, Beciist. 

OCCURS ill Norwa}' up to lat. 70°, in Sweden and North Russia to lat. 68°, 
and in the valleys of the Obb and Yenessa}- to lat. 67°. Southward it 
breeds in North-west Turkestan, Palestine, Greece, and Central Itah', but 
in the South of Europe generall}' it is onl}' known as a migrant, though it is 
believed that it sometimes breeds in Spain and the South of France : throughout 
the rest of Europe it is pretty generally distributed, and abundant in suitable 
localities. It visits Algeria and Egypt in the winter, passing thence to Damara- 
land and the Transvaal : it also seems probable, from the fact that Dixon shot 
the species in May in Algeria, that a few examples remain to breed there. 

In Great Britain the Sedge-Warbler is more or less abundant everywhere, 
excepting perhaps on the Shetlands; it is, however, somewhat local in the extreme 

Far more strikingly coloured than the Reed- Warbler, this well-known species 
has a general resemblance to hens of the Orange Weaver-bird fPyyomela7ia fraiicis- 
cana) : the general colouring of the upper parts is golden-brown, with black 
centres to the feathers ; but on the head the feathers would be more accurately 
described as black, with lateral brown borders; on the rump and upper tail-coverts 
they are cinnamon reddish, without black centres ; the secondaries are blackish 
with broad clear golden-brown borders ; the primaries smok^'-gre}-, narrowly and 
more or less distinctly edged at the tips with whitish ; tail-feathers blackish, with 
whitish margins ; a distinct broad pale buff superciliar}- streak ; lores and ear- 
coverts smoky-brown ; chin and throat white ; centre of abdomen whitish ; remain- 
der of bod}^ below buff; upper mandible blackish-brown, lower mandible 3'ellowish 
horn-brown, darker towards the tip ; feet pale brown ; iris bright hazel. The 
female is slightly duller than the male, and the reddish colouring of the rump 
and upper tail-coverts is less pronounced. Young birds have the breast trans- 
versely spotted with smoky-brown. 

The Sedge-Warbler appears at its breeding haunts towards the end of April, 
or the beginning of ^lay, and leaves us again in September or October. Although 


Sedge Warblli 

1-^ . - _ ^ nr. 


The Sedge- Warbler. 117 

not always strictly confined to sedges and reeds, it is almost invariably to be 
found in the neighbourhood of water ; * thus in Kent I met with it in numbers 
in a plantation which was frequentlj- converted into a marsh by the overflow of a 
mill-stream, and in Norfolk, in lanes within a stone's-throw of the broads. With- 
out question the best and most likely situations in which to look for the nest are 
in reeds and sedges, or in willows or hawthorns overhanging the water: and here 
I feel constrained to contradict a statement which has been made, respecting the 
situation of the nest, by several excellent observers and well-known Ornithologists. 
Seebohm and others assert that the nest of this bird "is never suspended between 
the reeds like the Reed- Warbler's, but is supported by the branches"; yet of the 
many nests which I took on the Ormesby broads in 1885 and 1886, nearly all 
were suspended precisely like those of the Reed- Warbler, several reeds being 
interwoven loosel}' into the walls of the nest, which was placed above the junction 
of a leaf in at least one of the said reeds. As seen from our boat, it would have 
puzzled the keenest observer to say to which species the suspended nest belonged, 
though a glance at the eggs at once settled the question. Of course when taken and 
compared side by side, that of the Sedge- Warbler is seen to be wider and shallower. 

Sometimes the nest is built in a hawthorn hedge, sometimes in nettles at the 
foot of a hedge ; and all those which I have discovered in the marshy plantation 
(part of which, when under water, was converted into a thousand tiny islets formed 
by the roots, and was most awkward to cross) were built amongst brambles, 
precisely in such a situation as would be chosen by the Garden- Warbler. 

For many years I collected eggs, without troubling to take the nests, but 
eventuall}- the importance of studying the variation of nests as well as eggs 
became impressed upon me, and during the few years in which I acted upon this 
conviction, I obtained amongst others some thirty or forty nests of the present 
species, from which I was able to select eleven fairly well-defined distinct types 
for my permanent collection, and an extremely pretty series they make, varying 
from a stoutly built structure of twigs, grass-stalks, feathers, wool, horsehair, and 
fibre, fully an inch and a half thick, to the flimsiest little fabric of goose-grass, 
fibre, wool, and the flowering heads of reeds : some nests seem to be made 
entirel}^ of fine grass-stems, and much resemble those of the Greater Whitethroat, 
others are more like those of the Blackcap, and others again are almost Sparrow- 
like in their untidiness and in the careless use of white feathers in the walls, 
though scarcely so in form.t 

* I have takeu the nest as far as a hundreJ 5ards or more distant from water. 

t I have a nest of the House-Sparrow taken from a Sand-Martin's burrow which is not much unlike 
this type, even in form. 

ii8 The Sedge- Warbler. 

As a rule the nest is deep and compact, constructed of dr}- grass, with a 
stalk or leaf of reed intertwined, also rootlets and ver}- rarely a little moss ; lined 
with black horsehair, soft feathers, and sometimes a little wool. 

Although, as a rule, the ground-colour of the eggs of this species does not 
vary much more than in those of the common Partridge, some eggs are very 
heavily mottled with olive-brown ; their number is from four to six, five being the 
almost invariable number for a complete clutch: the ground- tint is either greyish, 
huffish, or brownish stone- colour, and when mottled or zoned at the larger end, 
it is with a much deeper shade of nearly the same hue, amongst which, in the 
heavily mottled variety, are spots of a more slat}^ colour ; but, whatever character 
the eggs assume, the}- almost always show one or more fine scribbled black lines 
at the larger end, in character somewhat similar to those which characterize 
Bunting's eggs. 

The Sedge-Warbler, like its allies, feeds largely upon insects, their larvae, 
small worms and slugs ; in the autumn it is said also to eat elder-berries. 

The song of this species, as a rule, is somewhat similar to that of the White- 
throat; it occasionall}' far excels the performance of that bird, as I shall presently 
show : it is most industriously persevered in, and although the Sedge- Warbler is 
somewhat shy and skulking in its habits, I have often seen it, when startled, rise 
singing above the sedges, and even alight and sing for a minute or so in full 
view ; but generally it follows the rule that little birds must be heard and not 
seen : the alarm-note is probably a modification of the cry of the 3-oung for food, 
chuyr, c/iuc/i-uc/i-uch-uch-churr ; a ver}' common call among the smaller birds: the 
actual call-note I have not heard or have forgotten it ; probably it is a soft 
pleasing whistle. 

In July, 1887, I went down to see a brother naturalist, Mr. Edward A. Fitch, 
of Maldon, in Essex, and we discovered upon an island on his property a nest of 
the Sedge- Warbler, containing four young birds, in a blackthorn bush. The 
mother bird slipped off the nest into the neighbouring bushes at our approach, 
but the cock bird which was singing in one of the bushes continued his perform- 
ance, the finest I ever heard from this species : Mr. Fitch was certain that no 
Sedge- Warbler could produce such a song, and expressed liis firm conviction that 
the nest was that of the Blackcap, but I knew the nests of both species far too 
intimately to be deceived. 

Seeing that the nestlings were ready to take, I determined to try my luck 
at rearing them ; but, before I could put my hand over the nest, all the young 
scuttled out into the bushes, and both parents made their appearance in great 
wrath and scolded lustily; ultimately we secured two of the young. At first these 

The Sedge-Warbler. 119 

little birds proved extremal}^ difficult to feed ; as, for two days their mouths had 
to be forcibly opened for every mouthful, and had not my host's kind-hearted wife 
voluntarily assisted in feeding them, I should have been kept a close prisoner 
during the two or three days of my stay. After the second day the young birds 
became reconciled to their foster parent and opened their mouths readily enough. 

At first they had hard-boiled egg and moistened bread crumbs, but after I 
reached home I gave them the same mixture upon which I had, that year, 
successfully reared Nightingales, and this they seemed greatly to relish : they 
were always hungry, yet grew very slowly. At the end of three weeks one of 
them died, but the other was completely reared ; he was wonderfully tame, and 
whenever I entered the little greenhouse in which his large cage stood, he would 
fly down to the door and begin jumping up and down like an excited child, 
sometimes springing at the wires and bumping his breast against them in his 
eagerness to get some fly or mealworm which he spied in my hand. 

I used to open the door, put my hand in and he would hop on to it and 
snatch the insect or larva from between my finger and thumb : he was a pretty 
little fellow and I grew very fond of him , but I am afraid, as is often the case 
with pets, that he was too well fed for his health, for on September 2nd, after 
completing his autumn moult, he had an apoplectic fit and died. In all pro- 
bability, had this bird lived for years in captivity, he would never have sung a 
note ; for I do not at all believe the parent's song heard only for the first eight 
or nine days of his life, would have been remembered, and I do not think the 
songs of the Warblers are inherited ; they are heard and learnt by imitation 
either here or during the winter, after migration. 


I20 The Aquatic Warbler. 

Family— TURDID^. Sub/ami/y—S} 'L ! ILWE. 

The Aquatic Warbler. 

Acrocephaliis iKjun/icH.^, GmeL. 

ALTHOUGH this appears to be only a chance straggler to onr shores, it is 
h\ no means an uncommon bird in France, and it is qnite likel}- that, but 
for its close resemblance to the Sedge- Warbler, many more instances of its 
occurrence in Great Britain would have been recorded. It is, therefore, important 
that the present species should be admitted into the British list, so that all 
observers may be on the look-out for it. Its geographical distribution, according 
to Seebohm, is as follows: — "It has never been found north of the Baltic, and is 
only known to pass through Spain on migration. It is a regular, though local, 
summer migrant to France, Italy, German}', the Netherlands, and South Denmark. 
South of the Danube it is only known to pass through on migration, a few 
remaining during the winter in Greece and Asia Minor. In South Russia, Goebel 
found it rare in the valle}^ of the Dnieper ; and Nordmann once obtained it at 
Odessa in spring. Bogdanow did not meet with it either on the Volga or in the 
Caucasus ; but Aleves found it abundant in the marshes of the Southern Ural, 
which, so far as is known, is its eastern limit. It is said to winter in the Canary 
Islands, and in various parts of North Africa ; but our information respecting its 
winter quarters is very meagre. There is no doubt that a considerable number 
remain to breed in Algeria and Tunis." 

In Great Britain the Aquatic Warbler has been shot at Dover ; at Hove, near 
Brighton ; and at Loughborough, in Leicestershire ; it was also represented in 
"Hunt's British Ornithology," in 1822. 

The upper surface of the Aquatic Warbler is tawny-brown, the foreliead 
reddish-buff; a huffish- white superciliarj- .'Stripe from the base of the bill almost 
to the nape ; the crown above this stripe blackish-brown, divided down the centre 
by a stripe of buff; feathers of nape and back black-striped, and all the remaining 
feathers excepting the quills black-centred ; lores and ear-coverts pale-brown ; 
under surface of body buff, paler in summer ; the flanks (which are more 
distinctly buff) the neck and lower throat more or less striated. Bill dark-brown 







Aquatic Warbler j. 

Plate 3i, 

Thr Aquatic Warbler. 121 

above, paler below ; feet yellowish horn-brown ; iris hazel. After the autumn 
moult the plumage becomes more fulvous. 

The Aquatic Warbler is a bird of the swamps, haunting the sedges and 
smaller patches of reeds in dykes, ponds, the margins of lakes or rivers ; like the 
Sedge- Warbler it is a timid skulking bird, always ready to drop out of sight into 
the sedges at the least alarm ; like that bird also it does not confine itself strictly 
to aquatic vegetation, but is also found amongst wild and tangled scrub and thorn. 

It is said that this bird never hops, but runs almost like a mouse ; it is 
extremely active like all the other Reed- Warblers ; its song though somewhat like 
that of the Sedge- Warbler is inferior in tone, length, and execution. 

The nest, according to Naumann is never situated amongst reeds over the 
water, but is usually placed in a bunch of sedge, or some other aquatic plants 
aboiit a foot or less above the ground, or in dwarf thorn or willow overgrown 
with rank herbage ; it is suspended from the stalks or twigs of the growth in 
which it is situated, and these, as with the Sedge and Reed- Warbler's nests, are 
interwoven with the walls. In appearance the nest much resembles that of A. 
phragmitis, but is said to be slightly smaller ; * in its materials it doubtless varies 
quite as much ; but the basis of the nest, as with that species usually consists of 
dry grass and rootlets, and the inner lining is said to be invariably finished off 
with horsehair. 

The eggs number from four to five, and are indistinguishable from those of 
the commoner species. 

The breeding season begins about the middle of May, and fresh eggs are 
obtainable before the end of that month. 

Herr Gatke makes the following interesting remarks respecting the Aquatic 
Warbler in his "Birds of Heligoland": — "The distribution of this species as a 
breeding bird is scarcely as yet ascertained to its full extent ; at any rate, the 
conditions under which it makes its appearance here are not in harmony with the 
statements made in regard to its breeding area. The nesting stations cited for 
this species are Algiers, Italy, France, Germany — especially the west — Holland, 
and in solitary instances in Sleswick-Holstein, and Denmark. 

From the frequent, and in one case at least, very numerous appearances of 
young birds during the autumn migration, and their complete absence in the 
spring — I have onlj' once obtained a bird in April — we may with safety conclude 
that, so far as Heligoland is concerned, the species is a far Eastern one. This 
conclusion received considerable support from the fact that, on the 13th of August, 

• But, as the nest of the Sedge- Warbler varies iu diameter from 3J to nearly 5 inches, the comparison 
is not of much value. 

122 The Grasshopper Warbler. 

1856, when these birds appeared hei'e in unprecedented numbers, another species 
from Eastern Asia was taken — viz. Sylvia certliiola. Again, during September, 1876, 
when several individuals of 5. aquatica were seen and shot here, a ver}^ strong 
migration of eastern species took place. Thus, on the 4th, 6th, and 15th, and 
dail}' from the last date to the end of the month, Anthiis richardi occurred in 
numbers from five to twent}' ; on the 22nd two examples of Antlius cenjiuus and 
one of Jllotacil/a citreola ; on the 25th two examples of 5. aqualica were shot, and 
one example each day of 5. superciliosa on the 26th, 29th, and 30th. Similar 
occurrences were repeated in the course of October." 

Herr Mathias Rausch, in his article on European Song-birds, mentions this 
species with others, as " not prominent as singers, and for that reason not 
particularly beloved and in demand as cage-birds." At the same time, it must 
be remembered that numbers of little tropical birds, in no respect remarkable for 
song, and certainly no more beautiful in colouring than the Aquatic Warbler, are 
to be found in almost all bird- rooms : moreover somewhat high prices are paid 
for the species of White- eyes (Zosterops) and their only recommendations are their 
pretty quiet colouring and graceful activity. 

Family— TURDID.^. Sud/auiiiy—Si 'L I 'IL\ \ E. 

The (iRASSiiorPKR Warhler. 

Lociis/cl/ii tiaviii, BoDD. 

NOWHERE common, though in suitable localities not so rare as its shy 
disposition would lead one to imagine, this species appears to be generally 
distributed over Western Europe, and eastward as far as Transylvania, 
and South-western Russia ; northwards its range extends to St. Petersburg. In 
Italj' it is rare; but in Spain, only in the summer; it is believed to winter in 
Morocco and Algeria. 


,* '-■ 

The Grasshopper Warbler. 123 

In Great Britain it is pretty generally distributed throughout England and 
Wales ; in Ireland it is somewhat local, breeding chiefly in the eastern and 
southern counties ; in Scotland, south of the Firth of Forth, it breeds in varying 

The colouring of this species above is olivaceous-brown, each feather with a 
dark centre, least conspicuous on the sides of the neck and the longest upper 
tail-coverts; quills and tail-feathers brown, with their outer webs olivaceous 
towards the edge ; the tail faintly barred ; under surface pale buffish-brown ; the 
chin, centre of abdomen and under tail-coverts almost white ; the neck and breast- 
feathers with darker centres, and the under tail-coverts with brown shaft-streaks ; 
bill dark brown above, paler below ; feet pale brown ; iris hazel. The female 
closely resembles the male ; but young birds are more tinged with buff on the 
under surface than adults. 

Every writer on British Birds informs us that this bird owes its name to the 
resemblance which its song bears to the chirrup of the grasshopper; but Macgil- 
livray correctly says: — "The note, if once heard, can never be afterwards mistaken 
for the sound of a grasshopper or cricket, however striking the resemblance ; 
besides the length of time for which it is continued, provided the bird be not 
disturbed, is much greater. Thus, on one occasion, while watching some pike 
lines by the margin of a deep pool, I heard the trill of the grasshopper chirper 
emitted from a neighbouring hedge for at least twenty minutes, during which 
time the bird appeared to have been sitting on the same spot." 

As Seebohm observes, the song " is a rapid trill, absolutely monotonous, and 
is continued from a quarter of a minute sometimes to a couple of minutes without 
cessation " : this is not characteristic of the tizzik, tizzik, tizzik of a grasshopper ; 
indeed the note of the bird merely suggests that of the insect, it does not greatly 
resemble it. 

The Grasshopper Warbler haunts copses and plantations where there is dense 
and rank undergrowth, untrimmed hedgerows, and ditches overgrown with coarse 
grass, nettles, &c.; also gorse-clad commons, heathery moors, and bushes in marshy 
land, but rarely reeds. The nest is usually concealed in a thick tuft of rank 
grass, and so deep down that, on the only occasion when I flushed the bird 
(which was early in my birds'-nesting days) I failed to discover it : consequently 
I am indebted to the Rev. W. Bree, of Coventry, for an &%% of this species, 
and to the late Jenner Weir for a nest containing eggs. Sometimes the nest is 
placed in the bottom of a grassy ditch, on railway banks, or under whin-bushes. 

When disturbed, either from the nest or from cover, this shy bird is only 
seen for a moment, it disappears like a mouse ; or, in some cases, like a stone ; 


124 The Grasshopper Warbler. 

dropping from its percli into the undergrowth, through which it rapidly glides 
away. In Mr. A. W. Johnson's notes, quoted by Seebohm, we read : — " The sitting 
bird usually flies off the nest verj'^ quietl}' when flushed, and drops into the under- 
wood at once. One instance, however, came under mv notice, where the bird flew 
up and over some tall trees ; and if the eggs are hard sat, or the nest contains 
j^oung, the bird comes stealing back in and out amongst the grass like a mouse, 
and will approach within a few yards." 

Mr. Howard Saunders says that neither Air. A. H. Evans nor he have noticed 
the mouse-like action of this bird when flushed from the nest; but I was specially 
struck with it on the one occasion when I ought to have found the nest, and once 
again in a wood in the Stockbury ^'alley, in Kent, when I burst suddenly into a 
clearing, almost stepping on the male bird, which was uttering its creaky song in 
a bush just ahead of me ; I wasted much time then searching all around for a 
nest, which I never found. 

The nest is a deep compact cup formed of moss, dry grass, and a few dead 
leaves, with an inner lining of finer grass : the eggs, which number from four to 
seven, are pinky-white, speckled with blood-reddish brown, and with gre3-er shell 
spots; sometimes the spots are enlarged, so as to form a zone towards the larger 
end, occasionally they are interspersed with short Bunting-like hair lines of dark 
brown ; and, very rarel}', they are diffused and merged, so as to form a uniform 
pale brownish tint over the whole egg. 

The alarm-note of the Grasshopper Warbler is said to be //V, /ic, or //r, fie, iac; 
more probably tzic, tzic : but — Is it the alarm-note ? Surely, when a bird is flushed 
from its nest, it must feel frightened ; but I believe most, if not all, observers 
who have disturbed the Grasshopper Warbler when sitting, could echo Seebohm's 
words — " We never heard her utter a note." I am certain that the greatest 
confusion exists respecting the call and alarm-notes of wild birds in the accounts 
given by even the best observers, and when a good man mistakes the intention 
and meaning of a note, ever}'- subsequent writer follow^s his lead.* 

The food consists chiefly of insects, their larvre, and spiders, but it is possible 
that in the autumn it may also eat soft berries and small fruits. 

Sometimes the Grasshopper Warbler is double-brooded, the first nest being 
usually completed about the second week of May, and if a second is built it is 
generally read}^ for eggs towards the end of Jul}-. Nests have frequently been 

• I rt'inember IjeiiiR amused one day, wh<-n looking IhroiiKh a work by an eminent Ornithologist, and 
reading his account of I.iothrix liitens, to couie across the statement that "its call-note is a harsh chattering;" 
the fact being Unit the chattering indulged in by both sexes is simply scolding; the call-note of the male 
being a short and very musical song, of from seven to nine notes, and that of the female a single clear 
resonant whistle rejjcated four times. 

The Gkasshopper Warbler. 125 

found with fresh eggs about the middle of June, but it would seem probable, in 
such cases, that some mischance had befallen the first nest. 

Lord Lilford gives an amusing account of his search after this bird and its 
nest ; he says : — " The onl_y close observations of this bird which I have hitherto 
been able to carry out, were made in the early summer of 1856, on a rough piece 
of furze and thorn-grown grazing-land adjoining Dartmoor, in North Devon : there 
I found the bird very common. I should say that there must have been at least 
six or more pairs frequenting an area of perhaps twenty acres, but in spite of 
their abundance and constant song, it was only b}' close watching in the early 
morning that I was able to procure specimens for m}- collection : the male bird 
at that time will now and then creep out to the top of a furze-bush ' reeling ' 
or singing, and if undisturbed perhaps remain for a minute or more, but on the 
slightest alarm will disappear into the thickest covert he can find, and run like 
a mouse through the most tangled herbage from one thicket to the next, never 
taking wing unless absolutely forced to do so. In vain did we search for a nest, 
though armed with a bill-hook, and protected by garden- gloves, we plunged into 
masses of thorns, furze, nettles, thistles, and other defensive vegetation into which 
we had after patient watching traced one of these birds, tearing up the grass by 
handfuls, lopping away live and dead furze, on hands and knees, morning, noon, 
and evening ; day after day we went home with perforated skins, perspiring and 
unsuccessful." Birds of Northamptonshire, vol. i, p. 123. 

I could not resist quoting this; it is so true an account of the discomforts to 
which the zealous birds'-nester cheerfully submits ; and, after all, I am not sure 
that part of the joy of this branch of collecting does not consist in the successful 
battling through thorns and briars, even though, after the fray, you return home 
with both clothes and skin in rags. 

As a cage-bird I should not recommend this species. 

126 Savi's Warbler. 

Family— TL'RDID.'E. Sub/amily~S\ X ] 'ILW 'E. 

Savi's Warbler. 

Locustella luscinioides, Savi. 

SAVI'S WARBLER is a witness to the unquestionable fact — that no Wild 
Birds Protection Act which does not forbid the reclaiming of so-called 
waste land, will avail to hinder the rapid decrease of our British Avifauna; 
interference with the libert}' of Britons will not affect it one iota : most of our 
interesting birds are doomed, sooner or later, to banishment ; for they will only 
breed in their accustomed haunts; and where the proper conditions, to which they 
are used, cease to exist, they will not remain. So long as gardens remain we 
shall probably retain some of the commoner species, such as the Thrushes, the 
Robin, Hedge-Accentor, and Tits, the Garden Warbler, Spotted Fl3-catcher, and a 
few others; but the birds of the fens, marshes, moors, and forests, must eventuallj' 
recede before the steady increase of bricks and mortar. 

This marsh-loving bird is found in the larger reed-beds of South Russia, 
Austria, Italy, Holland, the south of France, Spain, North Africa, and Palestine : 
in the delta of the Rhone, and in North Africa it is probabl}- a resident species, 
but in its more northern haunts it is a migrant. 

In Great Britain, Savi's Warbler has probably become extinct ; between the 
years 1843 and 1856 a good many specimens, together with nests and eggs of this 
species, were obtained ; but the last British example was .shot on Surlingham 
broad, on June 7th, 1856, and passed into the collection of Henr\- Stevenson, the 
well-known author of the " Birds of Norfolk." The fens of Norfolk, Cambridge, 
and adjoining counties were previously resorted to b}' this rare little bird. 

The upper surface of vSavi's Warbler is russet-brown ; flight-feathers slightly 
darker; tail-feathers with slight indications of transverse bars; under parts brownish- 
buff; the throat and centre of abdomen white; under tail-coverts redder, with 
slightly paler tips; bill dark-brown above, paler below; feet pale brown; iris hazel. 
The young are described as less rufous above and paler below than adults. 

Mr. Stevenson states that the marsh-men of Norfolk know this bird under the 
title of the "red craking reed-wren"; he took down the account of his specimen 
as given b}' the man who shot it as follows: — "Being engaged on the broad all 

! \ 

Savis Warble' 

Savi's Warbler. 127 

night, lie first heard the bird 'noising' abont nine o'clock in the evening, on the 
6th of June, and observed it from his boat running up and down the dead reed 
stems, from the tops of which it kept calling at intervals until two in the morning. 
He then returned home, but at six o'clock he again found it in the clump of 
reeds, though more restless and calling incessantly. Soon after this the wind 
began to stir the reeds, and it then dropped down and remained silent among the 
thick sedges. Up to this time he had imagined it to be a Grasshopper Warbler, 
although the note seemed unusuall}^ loud and clear, and like them it kept moving 
its head from side to side whilst singing. On the following evening, at eight 
o'clock, the bird was still in the same place calling as before, and as one or two 
of the Grasshopper Warblers were singing at the same time, he distinguished at 
once a difference in their notes. As soon as he had shot the bird, he saw that 
it was different to any he had handled before, and observing that it remained so 
long in one spot, made every search for a nest, but could find no trace of one. 
About ten years ago, he assures me there were several couple of birds on the 
broad with similar notes, and he then found a nest with eggs, which, from his 
description, might be either that of Savi's or of the Grasshopper Warbler. About 
the first week in May of the following year, a bird, agreeing exactly in note and 
appearance with the above, was also seen by this marsh-man in a small sallow 
bush ; not having his gun with him, he watched it for some time, and had no 
doubt of its identity." 

The above account describes the habits of this species very accurately, as may 
be seen when it is compared with the accounts of other observers. The song is 
a monotonous trill, higher in pitch than that of the Grasshopper Warbler ; it is 
usually sung from the top of a reed : the call-note is said to be krr. 

The nest is placed upon a heap of tangled sedge leaves, and is carefully 
concealed in sedges, reeds, or rush ; it is composed of interwoven leaves of broad 
grass or sedge, with narrower leaves for a lining ; it is very neatly made, 
unusually deep, and is said to resemble a miniature nest of the Little Crake. 
The eggs, four to six in number, are white or pale buff, speckled with ashy- 
brown surface spots, and violet-grey shell-spots ; the markings are most numerous 
at the larger end, where they frequently form a zone ; dark hair-like Bunting 
lines are also sometimes present. 

Although this species is naturally of a skulking disposition, and, when 

alarmed, drops down into the sedges for concealment. Count Wodzicki states 

that "both male and female sit on the nest, and allow themselves to be watched 

without leaving it. If frightened off, they soon return." The nest appears to be 

■ built by the male bird, although both sexes collect the materials. 

I 2 

128 Thf. RuBY-THROATEn Warbler. 

The food of Savi's Warbler is believed to consist entirel}^ of insects and their 
larvae ; doubtless spiders are also eaten b}- it as b}- all other Warblers. 

The flight of this bird is said to have the same character as that of a W^ren. 

As a cage-bird I should imagine that, excepting for its raritj', Savi's Warbler 
would be more irritating than interesting ; on clear days its monotonous trill is 
said to be almost incessant. I once had a Canar}' which had been hand-reared, 
and had therefore not learned its proper song : this bird never got be3-ond a high- 
pitched key- whistle, or monotonous trill ; when it died I cannot say that I very 
deeply regretted my loss : at the same time even this apology for a song was 
heavenly music compared with the incessant wheel-screeching of a pair of Rosy- 
faced Love-birds, and anyone who had passed through a week of torment such as 
I once experienced from these discord-producers, might perhaps sit down and 
listen to Savi's Warbler with a beaming countenance. 

Family- TL RDW.^. Subjannly—S\ 'L I 'ILW'E. 

The Ruby-T?iroated Warbler. 

Calliopi cavitschaikensis. 


R. JOSEPH P. NUNN, in tlic •'TiiiKS." of December 3rd, 1900, .stated 
that he saw two wild .specimens of this hird at Westgate-on-Sea, in 
October of that \ear. 










The Hedge-Sparrow. 129 

Family -^ TURDID^. Sitb/amily- A CCENTORIN^. 

The Hedge-Sparrow. 

Accentor nodularis, LiNN. 

EXCEPTING in the extreme north of Europe, this species breeds pretty 
generally ; in Norway to the forest boundary and to the east up to 
60° N. lat., but in the north it is rarely found during the winter, 
migrating thence in autumn to Southern Europe, and occasionally to North 
Africa. South of the Baltic and westwards to Northern Spain and Portugal it 
is generally distributed during the summer ; a few breeding in the mountains of 
Italy, as well as Asia Minor, Palestine and the Caucasus : in the Lebanon and in 
Arabia Petraea it also occurs in winter. 

In Great Britain, excepting in the more exposed northern islands, it is 
generally distributed and abundant. 

The upper surface of the head is smoke-grey (slightly washed with buff in 
the female) and streaked with dull blackish-brown; on the neck and shoulders the 
grey becomes a pure bluish-ash ; the back is rufous-brown, broadly streaked with 
black; but the rump and upper tail-coverts are golden- olivaceous and not streaked; 
the wings are dark-brown, all the feathers more or less broadly edged externally 
wdth rufous-brown ; the tail-feathers are similar, but tinted externally with rufous 
or olivaceous-brown ; lores and ear-coverts brown ; chin, throat, sides of neck, and 
breast bluish-ash ; lower breast and abdomen in the centre whitish-ash ; under tail- 
coverts buffish-white, with brown streaks; flanks olivaceous-brown, with dark-brown 
streaks ; bill pitchy-brown, the lower mandible slightly paler ; feet horn-brown ; iris 
hazel. The female is paler and has the bill slightly longer than in the male, the 
crown and flanks witli more defined streaks. The young have no grey on the 
head or throat, but are altogether browner and more spotted than adult birds. 

The popular name of this common bird being objected to by many writers, as 
being likely to mislead the ignorant, the names of " Hedge- Accentor," "Shuffle- 
wing," " Dunnock," " Dykie," " Molly," and " Smokie " have been used in pre- 
ference (the majority being local appellations) ; but, when one considers that the 
term Sparrow has been applied to numerous other members of the Order Passeres, 
such as Serins of the genus Sycalis, Grass-finches of the genus Steganopleura and 

130 Thk Hedge-Sparrow. 

Mannikiiis of the genus Muuia, it seems hj'percritical to reject a name which is 
generally understood. 

The Hedge-Sparrow is one of those familiar birds which will never desert 
us, for it is just as happy in gardens, orchards, groves, shrubberies, plantations, 
and hedges, as in the dense undergrowth of copses and woods. In the winter, 
like the Robin, it seeks the habitations of man, and takes advantage of the refuse 
food flung out for its sooty and more vulgar namesake : it is one of the first 
songsters heard in suburban gardens, and helps to enliven the wet dreariness of 
February. The song itself is not very remarkable for execution, but is bright 
and clear, somewhat jiggy, if one ma}- use such an expression, less plaintive and 
varied than that of the Robin, and not so musical as that of the Wren : it 
consists of very few notes ; but these are made the most of, so that the effect is 
decidedly pleasing : also in mild winters it may be heard at times when most 
other birds are silent. 

Like the Chaffinch, the Hedge-Sparrow both runs and hops; on the ground 
it almost invariably runs with its head depressed as if constantly on the look out 
for food, and when it catches sight of a .spider or a seed it hops forward, shuffling 
its wings with a curious rapid action characteristic of its Subfamily. When 
passing down a garden path this bird generally keeps close to the border, 
dodging now and again under a shrub with a business-like action which almost 
reminds one of a mouse : it is rarely seen in lofty trees, but seems rather to 
prefer shrubs and hedges, amongst which it drops from branch to branch, peering 
about like a Tit for insect food. 

The nest of the Hedge-Sparrow has more frequentl}- been represented by 
artists than that of any other .species, and yet the form selected for illustration 
is one which many a zealous birds'-nester has never met with — a perfect cup of 
very fine bents, root-fibre, and moss, thickly lined with black horsehair, a little 
fibre, and one or two soft fluffy feathers : one nest of this character I found on 
May 1st, 1884, and it is the only one of its kind I have ever seen. The nest is 
always warm and cos}' in appearance, rather deep, the outer walls being generally 
enclosed in a framework of coarse twigs, rough roots of couch-grass, or thick grass- 
stalks, and occasionally fragments of dead furze ; the walls themselves are thick, 
and somewhat loosely formed of green moss, frequentl}' intermixed with bents, and 
sometimes a little sheep's wool ; the lining consists of hair, fine fibre, and often a 
little wool, and a small soft feather or two. Verj' rarel}' nests may be found in 
which there is no moss, but in most nests this material is very freelj' used. 

The position of the nest varies a good deal, but is rarely found at more than 
four (ir five feet from the ground ; it is vcr}' frequently built in a hawthorn 

Thk Hedge-Sparrow. 131 

hedge, but I have taken it from the branches of sapling trees in thickets, from 
furze-bushes, evergreens, brambles, faggot-stacks, ivy growing on a wall, and from 
a tuft of grass on the ground, where it exhibited a curious appearance, as the dead 
grass-stalks forming the upper part of the framework were so arranged as to form 
an irregular pentagon ; although this nest only contained one egg I could not 
resist securing it as a curiosity. In 1887, Mr. A. E. Shaw recorded the discovery 
of a nest of this bird built in a cabbage, and Mr. Gray, in his " Birds of the 
West of Scotland," mentions a nest placed at the base of a hart's-tongue fern on 
a ledge in a cave at Ailsa Craig. 

The eggs of the Hedge-Sparrow are so conspicuous that every rustic and 
schoolboy is perfectly familiar with them ; they vary in number from four to six, 
but five is a number rarely exceeded ; in colour they are of a beautiful turquoise 
blue and unspotted ; in form usually a very perfect oval ; they do, however, vary 
very considerably in form, although the extreme variations of a very long pear- 
shape and an almost perfect sphere are not often met with ; nevertheless, by 
diligent search, I have taken both types, which are figured on pi. VIII. of ray 
" Handbook of British Oology," and again in the present work. 

It is well-known that the nest of the Hedge-Sparrow is one of the Cuckoo's 
favourites ; this is curious, because the egg of this parasitical bird is, as a rule, 
utterly unlike that of the Accciifor ; Mr. Seebohm's fine series of Cuckoo's eggs 
nevertheless contains a variety resembling those of the Hedge-Sparrow, excepting 
in its superior size. 

Seeing that Accetitor modularis did not object to incubating an egg so utterly 
unlike its own, I once tried the experiment of putting two Whitethroat's eggs 
into a nest in a hawthorn hedge which closed the end of my last garden. It was 
no good, the alien eggs were simply thrown over the side and the nest deserted, 
proving clearly that the Hedge-Sparrow is not colour-blind : it will submit to the 
deposit system of the Cuckoo, but will not have anything to do with loans from 
other species. 

Frequently commencing to breed in March, it is not to be wondered at that 
this bird should frequently produce three broods in the year ; the abundance of 
the species is therefore easy to understand, although its absolute hardiness and 
the ease with which it accommodates itself to change of diet may have something 
to do with it. Its natural food consists largely of insects, spiders, worms, and 
seeds of weeds ; but, in confinement, like its cousin the Pekin Nightingale, it may 
gradiially be accustomed to live upon a seed diet alone. 

Mr. Stevenson, in his "Birds of Norfolk," says:— "With myself the Hedge- 
Sparrow has been always an especial favourite, from its gentle unobtrusive nature, 


132 The Hedge-Sparrow. 

assimilating so well with the neat russet and grey of its finely marked though 
quiet plumage ; retiring, yet not sh}', and, if never quarrelsome, still always 
' holding his own,' even with the pert Sparrow and still more saucy Redbreast." 

Air. Stevenson is mistaken in thinking that the Hedge-Sparrow is not 
quarrelsome ; I have seen it disputing vigorously with a Skylark, in the open, for 
the possession of an insect, and a hen bird which I kept for several 3-ears in an 
aviary killed several Titlarks and finally robbed a pair of Yellow-Hammers of 
their nest, in which she deposited a full clutch of infertile eggs, and sat steadily 
upon them until, at the end of a fortnight, I removed them. 

Another point in which I differ from this author is, that he speaks of the 
Accentor as singing as sweetlj' in an aviarj'^ as out of doors. Of the many birds 
which, from time to time, I have kept, not one ever made the slightest attempt 
at singing. Since I first published this statement, it has been contradicted by a 
well-known Aviculturist ; therefore, in the winter of 1905-6, I caught two cocks 
and one hen of the species ; turned the pair into one aviar}', and the solitary 
cock into another, and awaited results. Of the pair, the cock was absolutely 
silent all the summer, but the solitary bird gave one indication of its ability to 
sing, and only one, about midsummer ; he has been perfectly quiet ever since, 
though in excellent health. When first caught few birds are more wild, and they 
show their wildness in an idiotic manner which is simply exasperating, spending 
the whole da}', excepting when feeding, in flying perpendicularly from the earth to 
the roof, in one corner of the aviar}-, aud dropping back headlong : sometimes it 
takes three or four weeks before they abandon this senseless acrobatic performance. 

In a cage the Hedge-Sparrow becomes comparatively tame in a few days ; 
but then it is far more liable to the distressing ophthalmic disease referred to by 
Stevenson, than it is in an aviary ; moreover, being extremely restless, it hops 
incessantly from perch to perch — click-clack, click-clack, "doing the pendulum trick" 
as I used to say ; a performance most irritating to one's nerves. 

The only sound often heard from va.y Hedge-Sparrows was a sharp and 
rather short high whistle, which I took to be the call-note ; and, what with their 
stupidit}', pugnacity,* and sulky silence in captivit}-, this species is, in ni}' 
opinion, the very worst subject for aviary life. In the garden and the country it 
is charming ; but, as a pet, contemptible. 

I once tried rearing this species from the nest, but made the mistake of 
feeding upon hard-boiled egg and sweet biscuit: the young should certainl}- have 
been fed principally upon moistened ants' cocoons and cut up mealworms, or 
small caterpillars. 

• One of my males fought a Robin, uutil he became a perfect scarecrow, ami had to be liberateil. 














The Alpine Accentor. i33 

Family- TURDID.F. Subfamily— A CCENTORINAi. 

The Alpine Accentor. 

Accentor' collaris, ScOP. 

CURIOUSLY enough, although this bird is onl}^ an occasional straggler to 
Great Britain, I caught a specimen in my garden at Penge about the 
year 1883. At the time I did not know what to make of it; and, not 
being aware of its rarity, I never recorded the capture: indeed I supposed then 
that it might be only an unusually large, brownish, and somewhat aberrant variety 
of the Hedge- Accentor : it was evidently a young bird, as the white throat-patch 
was barely indicated. So far as I can remember, I caught this bird in September; 
I know that it was just when the bird-catchers were bringing Linnets and Gold- 
finches for sale. The bird was abominably wild, knocked itself about in a cage, 
finally got a growth over one eye, and died in such poor condition that I never 
thought of preserving the skin: had I then known its value, I should have saved 
it in proof of my statement, and certainly kept it when alive in a large cage by 
itself; whereas it had two Hedge- Accentors as companions; the latter, by the side 
of their rare relative, looked insignificant, much as a Song- Thrush by the side of 
a Missel-Thrush.* 

This species has its home in the mountains of South-western Europe, Asia 
Minor, the Caucasus, and Northern Persia. In Great Britain it has been chiefly 
met with in the southern counties ; having been known to occur in Cambridge- 
shire, Suffolk, Essex, Surrey, Sussex, Devonshire, Somersetshire, Gloucestershire, 
Wales, and Yorkshire. 

The adult bird has the crown and nape smoky- grey, with darker stripes ; the 
remainder of the upper surface brown, with darker shaft-streaks ; rump slightly 
paler than the back ; median and greater wing-coverts brown, varied with black, 
and tipped with white; quills and tail-feathers dark-brown, tipped with buff; ear- 
coverts grey, with darker stripes; chin and throat white, with black spots; breast, 

* In recording these facts uow, I am perfectly well aware that many scientific Ornithologists will only 
curl their noses in scorn, believing that I am either drawing upon a vivid imagination, or talking of some 
common species which I imagined to be an Accentor; but those who know me intimately, will give me credit 
for an excellent memory for form and colouring. 

134 The Alpine Accentor. 

centre of abdomen, and under tail-coverts smoky-gre}' ; flanks chestnut, with 
huffish edges to the feathers ; bill with the upper mandible mostl}^ black, base 
yellowish ; lower mandible yellowish, black at the tip ; feet flesh-brownish ; iris 
hazel. Young birds have the plumage spotted with rufous, and the white ou the 
throat is wanting. 

Gatke sa3-s: — "This interesting native of the mountains has not considered it 
beneath his dignity to leave his Alpine home in order to find a place in the group 
of distinguished visitors to little Heligoland. I have obtained the bird on three 
occasions: two individuals in spring plumage in May, 1852 and 1870, and cue in 
autumn plumage in October, 1862. Apart from these instances, there is certain 
proof of its having been seen on two other occasions, but the birds in question 
could not be shot on account of their extraordinary shyness." 

Seebohm, on the authority of various observers, states that the " Alpine 
Accentor is a summer visitor to the grass}- slopes where a brilliant arctic flora, 
watered by the ever-melting ice, covers the ledges of the rocks and the little 
plateaux amongst the boulders, between the highest limit of forest-growth and 
the lowest boundarj' of perpetual snow. Its migrations, however, are very limited. 
When its breeding-grounds are covered with snow it descends into the valle3's, 
and in severe winters will sometimes wander further from home and be seen in 
unwonted localities. Except, perhaps, when actually engaged in the duties of 
nidification, it is a more or less gregarious bird." 

On the earth this bird both runs and hops, like the Hedge- Accentor ; it 
certainl}' does not " drop its head and the fore part of its body suddenl)', at the 
same time jerking its tail and drooping its wings." It is an exceedingh* nervous 
bird, more so than the Hedge- Accentor. The call-note is described variousl}- as 
a plaintive tree, tree, tree, and iri, tri, tri : so far as I can trust my memory it is 
tswee, tswee, tszvee ; I am sure it is neither of the others, because no bird but a 
talking species could utter such sounds. 

Seebohm describes the song as a rich liquid c/iic//, ich, ic/i, icJi ; but it is also 
said to sing like a lark. 

Towards the end of Ma}' the nest is formed under a rock or bush upon the 
earth ; it is a neatly constructed cup, consisting of dry round grass-stalks, inter- 
woven with rootlets and lichens, and lined with fine moss, wool, hair or feathers. 
The eggs vary in number from four to five, and are pale turquoise blue in colour. 

It has been stated that this species is double-brooded, the second nest being 
constructed about the middle of July ; and, although there is no absolute proof of 
this, it is exceedingly probable.* According to Count Wodzicki, it breeds in 

• It is wfU-known tliat tlie Hedge- Acccutor uesls twice aud sometimes three times a year. 

The Alpine Accentor. 135 

colonies of from twenty to forty pairs, in which respect it differs verj^ greatl}' 
from the Hedge- Accentor. 

The food of this species in spring consists of insects, their larvae, and 
doubtless of spiders and centipedes, as is the case with all other insect-eating 
birds ; in autximn it eats various small fruits, and in winter seeds of grasses and 
other weeds. 

In Germany this species has been kept as a cage-bird, four examples having 
been exhibited at the sixth show of the "Ornis" Society, in Berlin. Herr Mathias 
Rausch also remarks that " its song indeed is not specially full of variations, and 
in its imitations is chief!}' limited to the Crested-, Sky-, and Wood-Larks ; at the 
same time it is of importance for aviculture, and therefore is gladly kept and 
cherished b}- fanciers." 

This is all ver}- well for those who onl}' keep a bird in order to hear its 
song ; but it is infinitely more interesting to watch its habits, and to do this 
properly the bird must be turned loose into an aviary. 

Knowing what I do of the sneaking spitefulness of the common Hedge- 
Accentor, when associated in an aviary with other birds, I should be very chary 
of turning in the larger and more powerful Alpine species. 

In a cage this bird runs like a Chaffinch, or like the Hedge-Accentor, and 
although I did not see it before it entered my box-trap, I do not hesitate to 
affirm that I am certain it ran (as well as hopped) in m}' garden.* 

* Wheu one is at a distance from the birds it is the slinking run, as well as the wing motion, which at 
once distinguishes the Hedge-Accentor from a true Sparrow. 


136 Family Cin'cliu.k. 


WE now come to the second famil}- of the Passeres, represented in Great 
Britain by one resident species only, belonging to the typical genns 

All Ornithologists do not, however, agree with Mr. Howard Saunders as to 
the validity of the family Cinciida ; for Mr. Seebohm placed the Dippers among 
the Thrush-like birds Tiirdina, stating that the}- " maj- be distinguished from the 
true Thrushes by their short concave wings fitting tightly to the bod}-, and their 
dense plumage adapted to their aquatic habits." 

On the other hand. Dr. Sharpe refers Cinclus to the end of the Subfamily 
Troglodytince or Wren-like birds, a group which they certainly resemble in their 
domed mossy nests and white eggs, and to which also the}^ have a slight likeness. 

Perhaps, until the Doctors of this science have definitel}- established the 
natural position of the Dippers beyond all dispute, by careful dissection of their 
clothing, body, bones, and (having completed the dr^^ bones) of the life-histor}', 
including song, call-note, alarm-note, and note of indignation ; until, I say, all 
this has been done, perhaps it will be most convenient to regard the Dippers as 
constituting a distinct famil}'. 

As in the Wrens, the wings and tail are short, the first quill being very 
short, the outer toe of the tarsus is also connected at the base with the middle 
toe; but the bill is somewhat different, the tip of the upper mandible being 
slightly curved over, whereas that of a Wren is pointed ; altogether the Troglo- 
dytinc characters are very strong, and Dr. Sharpe gives us yet another, as follows: — 
" The principal characteristic, however, of a Wren, and one that separates it from 
the true Timeliine birds, is the almost entire aksence of rictal bristles," — " for 
Ornithologists who doubt that Cinclus is a Wren, an examination of the bill alone 
will be sufficient to show that its place is with the Troglodytinct.'" 








The Dipper. i37 

Family— CINCLID.^. 

The Dipper. 

Ciiiclus aqualicus, BechST. 

COMMON and widely distributed though this conspicuous bird is, I have never 
met with it in a wild state since I first began to study the class Avcs : it 
is likely enough that prior to that period I may have seen it in some of 
the wilder parts of Devon without taking special note of the fact. 

Dr. Sharpe (Catalogue of Birds, Vol. VI) says: — "The common White-throated 
Dipper is widely spread over Central and Western Europe. It has been said to 
occur in the Faroes, and is found throughout Ireland in suitable localities, as 
well as Scotland with the Hebrides, and breeds in the northern and central 
counties of England, as well as in Wales and the south-western counties. In 
other counties it is an accidental visitor. 

The upper surface of the Dipper is slaty-grey, each feather with a dark- 
brownish margin, but the head and nape are wholly brown, wings dark-brown, the 
quills with greyish edges ; tail greyish-brown ; chin, throat, and front of breast 
white; remainder of under parts chestnut-brown, passing into dark smoky-brown 
on the flanks, thighs, vent, and under tail coverts ; bill black ; feet brown ; iris 

The female is very like the male, but is said to be darker on the flanks and 
under tail-coverts. The young are greyer above, and show no chestnut-brown on 
the under surface. 

Seebohm says : — " The haunts of the Dipper are exclusively confined to the 
swift-flowing rocky mountain-streams. On these he is found all the year round, 
in places where the waters now curl over hidden rocks, or dash round the exposed 
and mossy ones, and toss and fall in never-ceasing strife. The banks must be 
rugged also to suit the Dipper, all the better if in the rock-clefts a few mountain- 
ashes and birches have gained a good hold. But a Dipper is not a bird of the 
branches. You will make your first acquaintance with him most probably as he 
dashes rapidly from some water-encircled rock, or as he shoots past you uttering 
his sharp but monotonous call-note, to alight on some distant stone, or mayhap 
seek the boiling current itself, to astonish and amuse you by his aquatic gambols. 

138 The Dipper. 

The Dipper is also found on the barest of mountain-torrents, places where not 
a tree or shrub is found, where the waters roll and tumble in wildest mood across 
the heathery moors and down the bare mountain sides. 

The Dipper seeks much of its food under water, in which it dives and swims 
with ease. Lord Lilford, after confirming the statement of other observers — that 
this species, unlike the Kingfisher and other diving birds, does not take a header, 
observes : — " The Dipper sinks, if I may say so, horizontally, and, as ma}- be 
supposed, seems to have a good deal of trouble to keep below. These birds will 
go down in the most rapid streams and boiling pools below a waterfall, and, 
emerging with a jerk, fl}- off to a big stone, set up a short but ver}- sweet song, 
and resume their subaqueous explorations. All their movements are sudden and 
rapid ; thej' seem to be alwaj's in a hurry, and are eminently in keeping with the 
character of the streams which the}- frequent, and to which the\- add a great 

"The song of the Dipper, though not very powerful, is very pleasing, and is 
associated in my mind with many delightful reminiscences of wild mountain and 
river scenery in our island and abroad. The male bird sits jerking his tail, and 
warbling often amidst a whirl and roar of rushing waters, and, in manner, reminds 
one a great deal of the Common Wren ; the song is continued throughout the 
winter months." 

The nest of the Dipper, or " Water Ouzel," as it is sometimes called, is 
a domed structure ; a hollow ball of moss, sometimes interwoven with grass and 
with an entrance-hole in front and low down ; the inner lining is firmly compacted 
of twigs, dry grass, rootlets, and dead leaves. The site chosen for the nest is in 
a mossy bank, a hole in a rock, wall or bridge, or among the mossy roots of trees 
overhanging water, not infrequently on a rocky ledge behind a waterfall. The 
building commences early in April, and at least two broods are reared in the year. 
The same nest is sometimes used twice in a season. The eggs, four to five in 
number, are pure white, beautifully oval, slightly less glossy than Thrush eggs, 
but too smooth to be chalky in appearance (like unspotted eggs of the Wren) ; in 
size they agree pretty nearly with eggs laid by the Song-Thrush in its first season ; 
but they are more perfect ovals, the smaller end being decidedly more pointed. 

The food of the Dipper consists largely of insects and their larvae ; manj^ of 
which, such as caddis-worms, the voracious larvjE of dragon-flies and water-beetles, 
it seeks at the bottom of the water ; thus proving itself the greatest friend of the 
pisciculturist, by devouring the insects which prey upon fish-spawn and young 
fry ; it also eats spiders, small mollusca, worms, and seeds of grasses. In pursuit 
of its subaqueous prey it is said both to paddle and use its wings. 

The Dipper. 139 

Of course the ignorant fish-preserver, seeing the Dippers diving under water 
among his young fry, immediately comes to the conchision that his watch-dog is a 
wolf, and shoots it; in like manner, I heard of a Kentish farmer shooting a Red- 
backed Shrike, because he saw it in one of his cheery-trees ; and, when the bird 
was opened, and the contents of its crop were shown to him, his only remark 
was — " Ai doant know nothen abeut that ; ur wuz in my churries." 

As regards the Dipper as au aviary bird, I have a vague idea that at one 
time a pair occupied a very prett}' rock- and- water aviary at the end of the fish- 
house in our Zoological Gardens. I distinctly remember Wagtails in that aviary, 
and I think Dippers also ; but it is many years ago, so I may be mistaken. Lord 
Lilford says : — "I have often attempted to rear young Dippers, but never succeeded ; 
about three months is the longest period I have ever managed to keep them alive." 

Mr. Frohawk writes : — " It was not until I visited North Devon, in October, 
1895, that I had the pleasure of meeting with this bird in a wild state: during 
my first ramble along the picturesque banks of the East Lyn ; a wildly rushing 
stream, whose bed is studded with boulders and fragments of rock, over and around 
which its water pours and rushes in mad haste, I felt sure that I had come upon 
the home of the Dipper, so kept a sharp look-out for the birds. After walking 
for about a mile, I caught sight of a bird darting obliquely across the stream, this 
I instantly recognized as a Dipper. The following day I again visited the spot, 
and had a capital chauce of carefully observing the attitude and actions of the 
species, by concealing myself upon the bank, close to a small waterfall, which 
appeared to be a favourite haunt for a pair of these birds. 

I had not waited long before a Dipper appeared, upon a projecting rock at 
the side of the fall, only a few yards from my hiding place : this enabled me to 
make a sketch of the bird, as it stood upon the rock intently watching the flow 
of water (I presume for some aquatic insects, or other food) and it struck me how 
different its appearance was, as it stood ou that rock, with the spray splashing 
over it, from the illustrations and stuffed specimens which I had long been 
acquainted with. Instead of a dumpy and somewhat clumsy looking bird, remind- 
ing one of a huge fat awkward looking Wren, the Dipper is an extremely alert, 
active bird ; the usual attitude assumed by the ten or twelve birds which I saw, 
was as follows : — the head generally held fairly high, on a well-proportioned neck, 
and plenty of it ; the tail slightly elevated, not at right angles with the body as 
generally represented, in Wren-like fashion, but carried as with most other birds ; 
the wings generally with the tips held slightly below the tail : altogether the bird 
had a very trim and brisk appearance. 

One of these birds rose and hovered in fi'ont of the waterfall, remaining 


I40 Family Panurid.€. 

stationar}' in the air for fifteen or twenty seconds (reminding one of tlie hovering 
power of the Humming-bird hawk-moth poised in front of a flower) : suddenly it 
dashed through the rushing and foaming water, and landed on the opposite rock, 
without a draggled feather ; a good example of the power of this bird ! 

The flight of the Dipper is swift and straight like that of the Kingfisher. 
Although I believe it sings during the autumn, I was not fortunate enough to hear 
its song ; nor did I see it pursuing its prey under the water, running freely about 
upon the bottom and using its wings as oars." 

It is extremely fortunate that Mr. Frohawk should have been able to sketch 
this bird from life in one of its wild haunts, before the commencement of the 
present work; it being one of the few British species which he had previously 
not had an opportunity of studying when at liberty. 


REPRESENTED in Great Britain by one species only, which has, I think 
quite incorrectly, been called a Titmouse : in all its actions it resembles 
the group of Ploceine Finches known to bird-keepers as Wax-bills : it is 
also very largel}' a seed-eating species. As Mr. Howard Saunders saj-s : — " In its 
digestive organs and other points of internal structure, this bird shows no real 
afiinity to the Tits; and some writers have advocated its relationship to the Finches." 
Seebohni, whilst he speaks somewhat disparagingly of those who do not 
believe in the Pariue relationship of Pamiius, quotes the fact of two hens in 
confinement laying forty-nine eggs between the 30th of May and the 2nd of 
August, a feat such as one miglit expect from a bird having Ploainc affinities : 
he also notes the Bunting-like character of its eggs. 

Lord Lilford says, of examples of this genus: — "Their actions much resemble 
those of the true Titmice, from which in many other respects, such as internal 
structure, nesting habits, colouration of eggs, and voice, thej' differ very widely." 
In this he is quite right, with one exception: — "I never j-et saw adult Titmice go 
to sleep in a row all huddled together, as the Bearded Reedlings do, and as the 

Bearded Reedling i ?. 

Plate 37. 

The Bearded Reedling. 141 

Astrilds are in the habit of doing ; it must also be remembered that many 
Ploceine birds are extremely Tit-like in their habits, that the majority of them 
are reed birds, feeding (precisely in the same way as the Reed- Pheasant) on seeds 
of reeds and grasses, and small insects." 

Stevenson, in his "Birds of Norfolk," says: — "I cannot help feeling,— that 
Macgillivra}^ guided by an examination of its digestive organs, was right in 
considering it more allied to the Friugilline than the Parine group." 

Eveu the fact that this species eats small fresh- water mollusca does not, in 
any way, militate against its relationship to the Finches, many of which (and 
especially Ploceine Finches) eat worms with avidit}^ and would, in a wild state, 
probably devour small mollusca if they chanced to meet with them : indeed it is 
probable that the lime required by these little birds when laying is chiefly 
obtained from the shells of small land-, or fresh-water mollusca. 

Family— PANURID^. 

The Bearded Reedling. 

Panurus hiari)iicus, EiNN. 

ALTHOUGH in the main I have judged that I could not do better than 
follow the classification adopted by Mr. Howard Saunders, in his most 
excellent " Illustrated Manual of British Birds," my conscience is not 
sufficiently elastic to allow of my calling the present species a Titmouse. I have 
therefore adopted the alternative name, in preference to the misleading one of 
" Reed-Pheasant," which is, to my mind, somewhat too suggestive of Hydro- 
phasianus : — a bird not strikingly like Patmrus. 

Dr. Gadow states that this bird is distributed " all over Europe (except in 
Sweden, Norway, and Northern Russia), extending into Turkestan." Seebohm 

142 TiiK Bearded Reedlixg. 

says that " it has not been recorded south of the Mediterranean or north of 
Pomerania." " Finsch obtained it in the swamps of the Kara Irtish, south of 
Lake Zaisan, on the borders of Chinese Tartar}' ; and Prjevalsky found it in 
North-eastern Thibet." 

In Great Britain, the Bearded Reedling has of late years become very rare, 
owing chiefly to the draining of fens and marshes ; but also to the greed of 
dealers, who have stimulated the marsh-men to incessaut search after its nest and 
eggs. Though formerly its range doubtless extended further northward, it is now 
chiefl}' confined to the south-eastern and southern counties of England. 

The male Bearded Reedling differs from its hen much as some of the Grass- 
finches do, in the different colouring of the head and absence of distinct markings 
on the face : the description given by Mr. Saunders is so clear aud concise that 
I cannot do better than quote it : — 

" The adult male has the crown bluish- gre}' ; a black loral patch descends 
diagonally from below the eye and terminates in a pointed moustache; nape, back 
and rump orange-tawny ; wings longitudinally striped with buflSsh-white, black, 
and rufous; quills brown with white outer margins; tail mostly rufous; chin and 
throat greyish-white, turning into greyish-pink on the breast; flanks orange-tawny; 
under tail-coverts jet-black; beak 3-ellow ; legs and feet black. Length 6"5 in.; 
wing 2'25 in. The female has the head brownish- fawn, and no black on the 
moustache or under tail-coverts ; in other respects she is merel}' duller thau the 
male. The young are like the female, but the crown of the head and the middle 
of the back are streaked with black." 

This species is a bird of the broads, feus, and marshes ; aud, to my mind, is 
a representative in Europe of the large family Ploceidce or Weaving- Finches ; at 
the same time it does not, as might be expected, belong to that famil}- ; but 
.should perhaps be regarded as a link between the latter and the Buntings ; its 
habits resembling the former, and its nidification the latter group of birds. 

The nest, which I have found once in Kent, and twice on the Ormesby 
broads, is placed close to the water, upon a mass of half-decaj-ed leaf and broken 
reed-stalk, amongst the growing reed-stems ; it is an open cup-shaped structure, 
and has a coarse appearance for the nest of so small a bird, the outside walls 
being formed of loosel}- interlaced dead leaves of sedges, reeds, and broad- grasses: 
the lining consisting entirely of the feather}'^ top of the reed. 

The Kentish nest, placed upon a small floating island of reeds, in a large 
pond at Kemsley (where " Reed-Pheasants " were formerl}' common) was perfect ; 
but probably abandoned, for it contained no eggs: doubtless the j^oung had flown, 
inasmuch as it was late in May ; and. according to Mr. Stevenson, the full clutch 

The Bearded Reedling. 143 

of eggs is frequently deposited by the 7th or 8th April. The Norfolk nests had 
an unfinished appearance, and also contained no eggs, possibly they may have 
been plundered by the " lookers," or by marsh-men. I could hardly have been 
too early (as I formerly supposed) to find eggs of this species, for again it was 
in May. 

The Bearded Reedling lays from four to seven eggs of a sordid or brownish- 
white colour, with a few dots, dashes, and thread-like lines of dark-brown : they 
are distinctly Bunting-like in character : as is the deep nest in which they are 

This species is extremely hardy ; and, like the liny Waxbills of India, is 
capable of withstanding the severest cold of our winters; as Stevenson observes: — 
" Delicate as these little creatures appear, I have found them during the sharpest 
frosts, when the snipe had left the half-frozen waters for upland springs and 
drains, still bus}' amongst the reed-stems as lively and musical as ever." It is 
therefore not surprising that it is a resident species. 

According to Seebohm the song " is said to be only a few simple notes, 
something like those of the Blue Tit. The call-note appeared to be a musical 
ping, ping, something like the twang of a banjo. The alarm-note is said to be a 
chir-r-yr, something like the scold of a Whitethroat. The cry of distress is 
described as a plaintive ce-ar, ce-ar." 

As cage-birds Bearded Reedlings are altogether charming ; and, of late years, 
the admirers of the so-called "Reed-Pheasant" or "Bearded Tit," have greatly 
increased in numbers. Lord Lilford says: — "The chief food of this species appears 
to be the seed of reed, but in captivity I have found them most omnivorous, and 
ants' eggs were very favourite morsels with them, as they are with almost every 
cage-bird with which I have any acquaintance. My living specimens of this 
species were purchased in London, and were said to have been sent thither from 
the Netherlands ; they became very tame, and are very engaging pets, in motion 
the whole day long, often hanging head downwards from the top of their cage, 
and crowding together closely at dusk on the same perch." 

Formerly this species was rarely if ever exhibited, but now it is present at 
most of our bird- shows, examples probably imported from Holland being even 
admitted to the British classes : this, I think, is as it should be, for, to the 
aviculturist who studies the birds of Great Britain, it matters not at all whether 
his specimens were caught on this side of the water or the other, provided that 
they are identical in plumage. 


144 Family Parid^. 


THE Titmice constitute one of the most charming groups among our familiar 
wild birds ; they are incessant!}^ in motion, throwing themselves into every 
conceivable position ; as easily hanging upside down by one foot as manj' 
other active birds by both : on a branch they move in a jerky irregular fashion ; 
and, on the wing, their flight is verj' undulating and not long sustained. 

The strength both of bill and claw in these birds is surprising, as anj'one 
who has reared them from the nest can testify : they cling to one's fingers like 
stiff springs, and if they hammer one's nails with their short stout bills, one blow 
is enough: no wonder that, when one of a community is taken ill, his companions 
find it an easy matter to break open his skull and devour his brains ; for it is 
not only the Great Tit which does this. 

The songs of the Titmice are scarcely musical, though somewhat varied ; for 
they do not consist, as has been stated, of mere repetitions of the call-notes; indeed 
the songs of the Great Tit, for he has at least two, do not include his call-note 
at all, though one of them does introduce an approach to his alarm-note. 

The nests of the Tits, excepting when built in holes (as they frequently are) 
are domed or cave-like structures, with a small entrance in front. The eggs are 
stated to vary in number from five to twelve, but I know of no Tit which lays a 
complete clutch of less than six, or more than ten ; although as manj' as twenty 
may be found in the same nest, if two hens are concerned in the laj-ing. Never- 
theless I would not dogmatically assert, in opposition to the direct statements of 
good observers, that twelve eggs might not occasionally be deposited by one bird; 
but I should be inclined to believe rather that a first hen, after commencing to 
lay, had either died or been killed, and her place supplied by a second at once : 
there would be nothing at all improbable in this. 

Long-Tailed Titmouse 6 9 

Plate 38 

The Long-Tailed Tit. 145 

Family— PARID^. 

The Long-Tailed Tit. 

Acredula caudaia, LiNN. 

THE British representative of this species, to which the uanie of Acredula rosea 
has been given, can hardly be maintained as a distinct species ; inasmuch 
as, in Western Germany and France, if not also in Italy and Turkey, it 
freely interbreeds with the typical form ; as, in Lombardy it appears to do with 
another variety — A. irbii, between which and A. rosea all kinds of intergrades 
exist. Moreover the differences between these forms are slight and not invariably 
constant ; and the fact that three or four examples of the typical form have been 
obtained at various times, or seen in company with the British variety would 
tend to show that the modifications are not even strictly climatic. The different 
types are as follows : — 

A. caudaia: — Head, nape and sides of neck, throat, breast, edge of wing and 
under wing coverts snow-white. 

Distributed through Northern and Central Europe, across Southern Siberia 
to Japan : has occurred in Great Britain. 

A. macrura : — Differing in having a longer tail by about half an inch in the 
majority of specimens. 

Northern Europe, eastwards from St. Petersburg and in the island of Askold. 

A. trivirgata : — Slighty smaller than A. rosea, most examples having the black 
eyebrow-streak continued across the lores to the base of the bill. 


A. irbii: — Also slightly smaller than A. rosea, with the mantle, back, and 
rump greyer, and the scapulars grey. 

Sicily, South and Central Italy and Spain. 

A. rosea : — The white on the head restricted to the crown and forehead. 

Holland, Western Germany, France, Northern Italy and Turkey. Pretty 
generally distributed, though somewhat local, throughout Great Britain. 

In the female of the British type, the black stripe from eye to nape is 
broader than in the male. 

Although, in body, this is the smallest of the British Titmice, it certainly is 

146 The Long-Tailed Tit. 

by far the nu)St cliarming ; and its nest, in beauty, excels that of any other 
feathered inhabitant of our islands, not even excepting that of the Chaffinch. 

The favourite haunts of this bird are groves, especially where box and 
liawthorn abound, the outskirts of woods and plantations, orchards and shrubberies ; 
it is always on the move ; and, not being especially nervous, can be easily 
watched whilst actively seeking its food among the branches, or capturing winged 
prey in the air ; the only requisite is that the observer remain still. 

The nest, which varies much in form, is frequently placed in a tall hawthorn 
hedge, sometimes on the outside in full view of every wayfarer, sometimes in a 
clipped hedge in the very centre of the forked and thorny outgrowth of one of the 
middle branches ; in an evergreen shrub, such as a laurustiuus ; in a holly- or 
furze-bush, in brambles overgrown with honeysuckle or other vines, in iv}', or in 
the branches of a lichen-covered tree. In form it is either oval, which has given 
the popular name of "Bottle-Tit" to its architect; irregularly oblong, from which 
the birds' local name of "Barrel-Tit" is probably derived, or almost perfectly 
spherical : in size it varies to an extraordinary degree, one of ni}' nests measuring 
6i inches in depth, by 4|- inches in diameter at the widest part ; another is 4f 
inches in depth, and 3§ inches in diameter; and a third is 4f inches in depth, and 
3^ inches in diameter ; the entrance to the nest is always in front, though not 
always accurately centred ; it is always above the middle, and frequently near the 
top of the structure. The materials hardly vary at all, consisting of green moss 
felted with wool and cobweb and studded with white lichen ; one of my nests also 
shows fragments of reddish bark; the lining consists of a mass of feathers and hair.* 

The eggs are pure white, usually finely but somewhat sparely speckled with 
rusty or pale blood-red ; but occasionally only faintly suffused with this colour : in 
form they vary from a very obtusely pointed long oval, to a short oval almost 
approaching a sphere. 

My experience of the eggs of this species is, that ten represent a full clutch ; 
but Lord Lilford says that he has found as many as eleven, and that seven is the 
usual number: as many as twenty have been found in a nest, but there can hardly 
be a question that, in this case, they are the product of two hens. In North- 
amptonshire the country people call this Tit "Pudding-bag" and "Pudding-poke," 
as well as "Bottle-Tit." 

Unlike the nests of most of our birds, the home of the Long-tailed Tit takes 
both parents fully a fortnight to complete; but, when finished, it certainly is "a 
thing of beauty"! When I have seen one of these lovely works of art torn to 
fragments and lying on the footpath, I have felt that no punishment could be 

• The local name of " T'eaUier-pokc " may lie diic lo this. 





./' i 


■ i 


Great Tit i ■".>. ^ 

Plate 39 

The Great Tit. 147 

too great to iuflict upon the besotted clodhopper who had committed that piece 
of vandalism.* 

The Long-tailed Tit has no regular song, but it constantly repeats its shrill 
call-note — tsee-tsee-tsce ; and Seebohm speaks of another note (which I have not 
heard) and renders it — " a sort of ptgc, impossible to express on paper." 

As a cage-bird this beautiful Tit is extremely difficult to keep ; a friend of 
mine, who has, on several occasions, attempted to domesticate it, tells me that, 
although he did not find it shy or specially wild, he could never manage to 
keep it alive for more than two or three days.f Probably, if hand-reared, this 
charming little bird might be made a pet of: had I ever been able to find a 
nest containing j-oung, I should certainly have attempted to bring them up. 
Perhaps I should have failed, and thus unnecessarily deprived the parents of 
their very attractive family : in the case of many birds, this would be a matter 
of little moment ; but a family of Bottle-Tits is more than usually united, living 
in unison throughout the autumn aud winter ; and only separating, for breeding 
purposes, in the following spring. 

Family— PARID^. 

The Great Tit. 

Parus major, LiNN. 

SEEBOHM observes that "The Great Tit appears to be found throughout 
the Palaearctic region, from the British Islands to the Pacific. In Norway, 
under the influence of the gulf-stream, it ranges as far north as the arctic 
circle (lat. 66^°). In West Russia it has not been recorded north of lat. 64°. In 

* I found all my nests between Raiuham and Newington, in Kent, but I have seen the bird in the 
autumn on Boxhill, near Dorking. 

t Dr. Girtanner succeeded in keeping Long-tailed Tits in confinement as long as two rears. They 
thrive best when caught in winter, and should at first be fed on leaf-lice and other insects. 

O 2 

148 The Great Tit. 

the vallej' of the Obb, Finsch and Brelim did not obsen'e it north of lat. 58°. 
On the Pacific coast, Middeudorff did not obtain it further north than lat. 55°. 
It extends in the west as far south as the Canary Islands, Algeria, Palestine, and 
Persia, and in the east as far as North Turkestan and the Amoor." 

This beautiful bird has the crown of the head to below the eye and backwards 
to the nape gloss}^ black with a bluish sheen ; the mantle and upper back are 
olivaceous-green, which shades into deep ash-grey on the lower back and upper 
tail-coverts; tail with the inner webs greyish-black, the outer webs deep ash-gre}-, 
excepting the outermost feather which has the web and tip white, the next feather 
also white-tipped ; wing-coverts bluish pearl-grey, the outer ones broadly tipped 
witli white; the primaries smoky-brown, the basal half of the outer webs edged 
with pearl-grey and the terminal half with white; secondaries greyish- brown, darker 
towards the shaft and paler towards the margins, the outer webs with broad pale 
edges, the anterior feathers being edged with pearl-gre}', and the posterior ones 
with white; the cheeks, ear-coverts, and sometimes a small spot on the nape snow- 
white ; a belt encircling the neck, the chin, throat, fore-chest, and an irregular 
streak down the centre of the breast to the veut blue-black, remainder of bod}- 
below dull sulphur-yellow ; under tail-coverts white, varied with black, the tail- 
feathers below ash-grey, the outer feathers varied as above with white ; bill 
shining black ; feet dark leaden-gre}' ; iris deep brown. 

The female is slightly duller than the male, and the stripe below is a little 
narrower. Young birds are also duller, with the cheeks more yellow in tint. 

In general colouring our Great Tit curiously resembles the smaller (N. W. 
Indian) form of the Persian Bulbul ( Pycno)iolus UucotisJ . 

The "Ox-eye" Tit, as this bird is often called, is abundantly met with in woods, 
plantations, shrubberies, orchards and gardens ; it may be seen at almost all times 
of the year in search of food, and I do not doubt that man}- caterpillars of the 
common Puss-moth which, from their bizarre aspect, deter most birds from touching 
them, fall victims to this and the other species of Parus : I know that, in confine- 
ment, the Great Tit does not hesitate for a moment to seize and tear them to pieces. 
In the winter all these birds are easily attracted by a suspended beef-bone or lump 
of suet, and the actions of the birds can then be well studied ; for in winter more 
than at other times, the Tits are confiding and reckless of consequences : on this 
account they are more easily caught in cage-traps than any other birds. 

The call-note of tlie Great Tit much resembles that of the Chaffinch — chidi, 
citicli, (hull, with a slight metallic n sound before the last ch ; its alarm-note is 
like the bleating of a kid — a sort of wcrry, enc, crrc, sometimes running together 
into a Ion;;- vibration (I have heard the note when a cat has been climbing the 

The Great Tit. 149 

tree in which the bird was, and invariably after this Tit has been caught and 
caged). The song varies a good deal, but the best-known song of this species is 
its ungreased wheel-barrow note, which may be heard at all seasons — chee-chi, chee- 
chi, chee-chi, chcc-chi. The true love song is only heard in the spring — tsoo-tsoo ivcrry 
tsoo-tsoo iverry, isee tsee. 

The nest is alwa3'S placed in some kind of cavity, even if it be but a gap 
among the sticks below a Rook's nest ; but the favourite site is certainly a hole 
in a fruit-tree sometimes a foot or more below the opening ; it may also be found 
in a mere decayed cavity, in which case the nest is built like that of a Wren; in 
a flower-pot, letter-box, an old disused pump, hole in a wall, or even in the 
ground, and often behind detached planking and lattice-work. 

In form the nest represents two t3'pes, those built in open situations are 
domed, formed of moss ; and, in one which I took, without any lining (although 
it contained its full complement of eggs) ; the commoner type of nest is merely a 
slightl}' concave disc at the bottom of the hole selected by the birds for their 
nurser}-, and consists of a thick foundation of dried grass or moss, with an upper 
la3'er of hair, wool, or feathers : occasionally (but chiefly when moss is used) 
the moss is carried a little distance up the inner walls of the hollow trunk or 
branch. It is no easy matter for the birds' -nester to secure a perfect specimen of 
the latter type of nest, inasmuch as one has to raise it to the entrance hole by 
means of a long twisted wire, without losing any of the eggs, and then draw it 
slowly through what is often a very small aperture. 

According to Seebohm the number of eggs varies from five to eleven ; but, 
from my experience, I should say that a full clutch consisted of six eggs, and that 
any number above six was the product of a second hen : that two hens do lay in 
the same nest, was conclusively proved by Mr. J. C. Pool in a letter to the 
"Feathered World" for May nth, 1894, where he noted the addition of two eggs 
on the same day, to a nest built in a letter-box. Curiously enough Mr. Pool 
insisted that the same hen must have laid both eggs, which is (of course) quite 
out of the question ; moreover the nest contained ten eggs, two of which subse- 
quently disappeared, doubtless broken during a quarrel between the two hens and 
carried out by the victor. Mr. Pool's conviction that — as he never saw more than 
one hen, there could hardly have been two, proves nothing : the same bird could 
not have deposited two eggs on one day.* In colour the eggs are white, spotted 
with blood-red. 

That Great Tits may be bigamists is possible, that they are Bluebeards and 

* lu the case of double-yoked eggs, I believe a day is missed before laying: a Canary of mine after laying 
three eggs, missed a day; then laid a double-yoked one, which took seventeen days to hatch, and produced 
two perfect young ones. 

150 Thk Great Tit. 

cannibals we know ; for if two Ox-eyes are kept together in the same cage, one 
will sooner or later kill the other, and eat (at least) its brains. Some j-ears since 
I caught twenty-three Great Tits, nine of which I turned into two large flight 
cages, but they gradually devoured one another until two were left ; subsequently, 
as I needed one of the cages, I turned the two savages in together, and, next 
morning, one of them was reduced to the condition of Jezebel after the wild dogs 
had left her : the uncanny consumer of its brethren lived through two moults 
afterwards, but lost all its beaut}-, becoming extremel}- pale in plumage, the 
uuder-parts a dirty cream-colour. 

A Great Tit turned into an aviary- with other birds, is about as safe a com- 
panion for the latter as a good healthy brown rat would be : charming and useful 
when free, he is repulsive in captivit}- on account of his murderous disposition. 

The food of this bird when wild consists largely of insects and their larvae, 
spiders, seeds and buds, also flesh and fat when procurable.* The absurd state- 
ments made by many writers, as to this and the other Tits only destroj-ing buds 
for the sake of the maggots contained therein, can be disproved b}' an3-one who 
has turned them into an aviary in which shrubs and creepers are planted : in so 
limited an area two or three days will suffice to dismantle every shrub and creeper 
of both buds and leaves, which are wantonly torn off and dropped. Of course, in 
the open, buds are so many and birds are so few, that comparatively little real 
mischief is done ; and probably no more fruit buds are destroyed than a gardener 
would purposel}' prune away in the form of unripe fruit. Birds nevertheless 
destro}^ not buds only, but leaves and green bark, in which no suspicion of a 
maggot exists, out of simple wanton destructiveness ; just as the}' will snatch 
feathers from one another and fling them away. 

In captivity, this, and all the Titmice, are very fond of nuts, especially 
Barcelonas and walnuts ; next to which, mutton suet is their favourite food ; these 
dainties they will eat almost immediately after their capture ; although, for the first 
day or so. Great Tits spend most of their time in hammering at the wire and 
woodwork of their prison : pretty as they arc, it is wrong to shut them up ; their 
nature is far too wild. 

In May, 1886, I tried hand-rearing Ox-eyes: there were four of them, which 
had formed part of a family hatched in a hollow plum-tree ; I found them quarrel- 
some above all nestlings, clamorous, and voracious ; their call for food was clii'ir- 
ckiir-chiir-c/iiir, c/iiir : they lived long enough to fly, and were becoming quite 

• The yoiiiij.; arc fed largely on green caterpillars, and I have watclieil a i>air for a cousiderablc lime 
iiiccssniitly travelling backwards and forwards from tlieir nest to a plantation of currant and >;oosel)erry bushes, 
each time bringinj; a nionthful of the caterpillars of the destructive little loojiing caterpillar of the V-moth 
filalia vauaria). 

5 4 

r'V/^v^"'^ *- 

The Coal-Tit. 151 

interesting, when suddenly the}- all died off within two days ; having probably 
swallowed some wadding from their bed, in their greediness after food dropped 
upon it. 

Family— PARID^. 

The Coal-Tit. 

Parus atcr, LiNN. 

DR. SHARPE has separated the British race of this species under the name 
of P. britannicus on account of the olive- brown tint of its upper back ; 
but it would appear that the Continental form also occurs in Great 
Britain, as well as intermediate grades between the grey and brown-backed forms. 
As a matter of fact these differences, if they were constant, would be trifling as 
compared with the far more defined local variations of our Yellow-Hammer, the 
male Kentish bird in breeding plumage differing from that of some parts of 
Surrey, almost as much as a Saffron-finch does from a Greenfinch. 

On the Continent the Coal-Tit is generally distributed and resident throughout 
Central and Southern Europe, extending northward in summer up to lat. 65°. In 
Great Britain it is generally distributed, though local in Scotland, and not recorded 
from the Outer Hebrides, Orkneys, or Shetlands. 

The adult male has the head and throat blue-black, with the exception of a 
white patch on the nape, and a much larger one extending from a little behind 
the base of the bill below the eye to the neck ; back slaty-grey, more or less 
suffused with olive-brown ; rump browner ; wings and tail greyish-brown ; median 
and greater wing-coverts with white tips, forming two bars ; breast white, some- 
what sordid and gradually shading into buff-brownish on the belly and flanks ; 
bill black ; feet leaden grey ; iris hazel. The female is duller in colour, the white 


152 The Coal-Tit. 

patches }-ello\ver. The yoimg are more olivaceous above, and the white patches 
are sufifused with sulphur-yellow. 

Fortunately this extremely charming species is becoming much more common 
than it formerl}' was, in our islands ; so that it is no unusual occurrence, in the 
autumn, to see a famil}^ sporting about among the trees of our suburban gardens; 
3-ouug Coal-Tits are wonderfully confiding ; so much so that, in the autumn of 
1895, I Avas able to stand under an Acacia in my garden, and watch these pretty 
little birds going through their acrobatic performances, within two or three feet 
of my head; indeed, one or two of them, growing bolder as I remained quietly 
observing them, descended to a slender branch within a foot, and peered down 
and chattered at me in a most knowing manner — "' ick-heec, ick-heec''^ is what they 
seemed to say; but, to me, this appeared to mean "JJlio are you?" Probably 
the same words, differently accented, represent a language intelligible to birds; for 
even we can sometimes comprehend its meaning ; as, for instance, when a Canar}- 
asks for fresh seed, or for some dainty, the pleading tone is distinctl}- apparent. 

The favourite haunts of this species are plantations, copses, thickets, and 
shrubberies, especially near open common or moorland ; no tree or evergreen 
escapes its minute examination when in search of insect food ; though perhaps 
the conifers form its favourite hunting-grounds. Its principal breeding-grounds 
are said to be birch, pine, and fir plantations, and alder swamps ; but all the nests 
which I have met with have been either in hollow orchard-trees or behind ivy- 
grown trellis-work on summer-houses, or garden walls. The site for the nest is 
usually in a hole in the trunk of a tree, or in a stump in a hedge, but it has 
been found in a hole in the earth among the roots of a felled tree-trunk, and 
Lord Lilford states that most of the nests which he has examined were placed 
underground in the burrows of rabbits, moles, or mice. 

The nest consists chiefly of a thick but loose lining to the selected cavity, 
sometimes covering only the bottom of the hole, sometimes the sides also ; and 
when more or less exposed behind trellis-work, over-arched, with the entrance in 
front: I have not taken enough nests of this species to be sure of the number of 
a full clutch of eggs; but, as different authorities mention the numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 
and 9, I strongly suspect that the full number is either eight or ten, though 
rarel}' the latter : many nests are undoubtedly taken b}' egg-collectors before the 
completion of the clutch, and I have taken nine j-oung birds and an addled egg 
from the same nest. 

The materials of the nest consist of moss, wool, or hair, with a thick inner 
lining of feathers. 

The eggs are somcwluit elongated ovals, sometimes with the two ends alike, 

The Coal-Tit. 153 

chalky-white when blowu, though semi-trausparent and appearing delicate rose- 
pink when fresh from the nest ; the surface is more or less sprinkled with pale- 
red dots, which occasionally are collected into a mass at the larger end ; but, as 
a rule the eggs of the Coal-Tit are not heavily marked. 

The young, as with the other Tits, are principally fed upon small caterpillars 
and spiders ; of which vast quantities are destroyed during the rearing of a 
family. Little does the fruit-grower imagine, when he slaughters this amiable 
little bird, what a vast debt of gratitude he owes it, for the countless destructive 
caterpillars which it has cleared off his trees and bushes. When adult, their food 
consists of insects, their larvae, spiders, beech nuts,* seeds and buds : they are 
also very fond of mutton suet, or the scraps of meat adhering to a well-cleaned 

What is the love-song of the Coal-Tit ? According to some writers it is a 
repetition of the call-note ; but, whilst lying awake in the early morning, I have 
heard a Tit sing in the oak-tree in front of my house, which certainly was neither 
a Great-Tit, nor a Blue-Tit; and its song was — tee, tsoo-lsoo, teryy, as nearly as 
I could make out at the time : I believe this to be the Coal-Tit's love-song, but 
am not sure. The songs of birds, which were stiidied critically by the late Mr. 
Charles A. Witchell, have, until recently, not received half the attention which 
they deserve. 

The call of the young for food certainly bears no relation whatever to the 
ordinary call-note or to the above song; in June, 1888, I heard of a nest of young 
Tits in a cemetery in Kent, and visited it with Mr. Frohawk ; we caught the 
mother bird on the nest and then took out nine young birds and a clear ^^^. I 
enclosed the entire family in a cage with the mother and gave her some wasp- 
larv« to feed them with ; but, although Tits are very industrious and painstaking 
in feeding their young when they have their liberty, I soon saw that it was 
hopeless to expect an3'thing of the kind in a cage ; the mother-bird simply 
devoured all the maggots herself and trampled her babies underfoot in her frantic 
efforts to escape : I, therefore, opened the cage-door at an open window and away 
she flew without another thought as to the fate of her family. 

For a week, during which time I was able to attend to my Coal-Tits person- 
ally, they throve splendidly ; but unhappily I had to return to work and leave 
them in the care of a young girl who, in those days, used to come in daily and 
attend to my birds ; the consequence was that these charming little things were 
neglected, being allowed to get dirty ; so that gradually they dropped off, one or 

* I saw the Coal-Tit busy upon these at St. Wary Cray, about the year 1891 or 1S92, when I was out for 
a couutry ramble iu that direction. 

154 The Marsh-Tit. 

two in a da}', until all were gone. I was a good deal grieved to lose these 
charming little birds; they were so lively and amusing. The moment that the lid 
of the basket in which I kept them was lifted, all nine sprang on to the edge, 
and standing in a row, shouted at their loudest — " Chutcha, chutchurr ; Chuicha, 
chuickurr" incessantly, until the feeding was over ; then in a moment they scattered, 
hopping in ever}- direction ; some were on my arm, some on my shoulder, others 
on my head — and a nice little job it was to collect and restore them all to their 
flannel nest in the basket. Sometimes my wife fed them, and if they did not keep 
in a row, she used to push the rowdy ones back gently before feeding ; so that in 
a day or so they quite understood and stood up exactly like a class of charity 
children in uniform saying a lesson : it was a very pretty sight and I quite missed 
the little things w-hen they died. Poor little mites! it would have been far better 
to have left them in their parents' care ; but, I didn't know that at the time. 

Family— PARID.E. 

The Marsh-Tit. 

Par us fyalustris, LiNN. 

LOCAL as this resident Titmouse is in the British Isles, it is not uncommonly 
captured in the autumn by the Bird-catchers; but, unfortunately these men 
rarely take the trouble to bring them to Aviculturists; but either kill them, 
or let them go, according to their nature ; some of the men who adopt this 
method of adding to their earnings being really fond of birds and quite intelligent, 
whilst others are mere savages. 

This species is distributed throughout Central, and the greater part of Western 
Europe, down to the Pyrenees ; it is local in Spain, and rare in Southern Italy and 
Greece. British specimens, on account of the .somewhat browner colouring of the 
upper surface, as compared with those of the Conliucut, have received the varietal 




■■ A 


Marsh T: 

PL/.Tt ^\. 

The Marsh-Tit. 155 

name of dresscri. Our Marsli-Tit is less frequently seen than most of our species, 
though not uncommon in suitable localities, both in England and Wales; but in 
Scotland and Ireland it is extremely local. 

The adult Marsh-Tit has the forehead, crown and nape glossy-black, to a 
line below the eye from base of upper mandible; back greyish-brown, slightly 
cupreous in a bright light, paler on the rump and upper tail-coverts; wings and 
tail smoky-brown, slightly browner along the outer webs of the feathers ; chin 
and throat black; cheeks ashy- white; remainder of under parts ashy, suffused with 
buffish-brown on the sides, flanks, thighs, and veut ; flights and tail below ash- 
grey; bill black; feet leaden- grey ; iris dark-brown. The sexes are very similar; 
but the young are duller and somewhat browner. 

Although often found in the neighbourhood of marshes, this Tit is by no 
means strictly confined to moist situations ; for I have not unfrequently seen it 
in my own garden at Beckenliaui, though more frequently in the autumn than at 
other seasons, and often in company with Blue-Tits : its song is not of much 
2SiQ.o^xri.\.—tsiz-tsiz-tsiz, clue, and the call-note a rapidly repeated chay, chay, chay, cliay ;* 
in spring it is also said to utter a loud double note somewhat resembling the 
ordinary wheelbarrow note of the Great Tit; but this I have never been able to 
confirm ; though I may have heard the note without recognizing its author : but 
from what I have seen of this species, both wild and in confinement, I should 
judge it to be less noisy than other Tits. 

In disposition the Marsh-Tit is gentle, confiding and lively : in its actions, 
flight, method of feeding and the nature of its food, it corresponds closely with 
its congeners; but I found it a more inveterate bather, which may perhaps account 
for its preferring the vicinity of water. According to Lord Lilford this bird is 
less often to be found amongst high trees than our other species. 

Although a resident bird, the numbers of our British bred Marsh-Tits are 
largely increased by autumn immigration, the arrivals again taking their departure 
early in the succeeding spring. 

Stevenson, in his "Birds of Norfolk," gives the following interesting account: 
"Though commonly met with by rivers aud streams and in other low and damp 
situations, it is also found in our fir plantations and in gardens and orchards far 
from any water, where, in autumn, they feed on the seeds of various berries, being 
particularly partial to those of the snowberry shrub ( Symphoria racemosa). Before I 
discovered the actual depredators I had often observed that the berries on these 
shrubs in m}^ garden disappeared very rapidl}^ and, moreover, that the berries 
themselves were strewed about under the neighbouring trees. I was quite at a 

♦ 111 Yarrell, it is rendered pe/i. peh : 1ml it is cAiiy or /say iu ni_v opinion. 


156 The Marsh-Tit. 

loss to account for this, until one morning I obsen-ed a Marsh Titmouse flying 
across the grass-plot with a white ball, almost as big as his head, on the point 
of his bill. He looked so oddly at the moment I could scarcel}^ at first sight 
determine either the bird or its burthen, but as soon as he alighted on an 
opposite tree he gave a little wrench with his beak, and dropping the husk at 
the time, flew off direct to the snowberry bush. The whole thing was now 
explained, and as I watched, another Titmouse joined the first, and these 
continued as long as I had time to wait, carrying off the berries on the ends of 
their bills to the same tree opposite, where they opened and dropped the husks, 
then back again for more. On picking up these husks afterwards, I found each 
of them split open down the side, and minus the t^\o little kidney-shaped seeds 
that grow in either half of the white fruit." As my son has one or two of these 
shrubs in his garden next door to me, it is possible that they may account for 
the presence of Marsh-Tits in my garden. 

The Marsh-Tit usually nests in holes in trees and near to the ground, after 
the manner of the Coal-Tit, and, like some of our other species, it has been known 
to make a hole for itself in a decayed tree; it has also been known to build like 
a Tree-Creeper behind loosened bark, and nests have been found in mouse or rat- 
burrows in banks. 

Lord Lilford observes that " Both nest and eggs may easih' be mistaken for 
those of the more common Coal-Tit, but the present species sometimes makes use 
of willow-down as a lining, and, so far as I know, never employs feathers for that 
purpose. The eggs are from five to seven or eight in number." 

Seebohm sa3's : — " Occasionall}- it breeds in a pollard willow, and has even 
been known to build in a rabbit-burrow or an old rat's hole. The inside of the 
hole, if too deep, is filled up with bits of wood or small twigs and upon this 
foundation a moderatel}' neat nest is composed of moss, w-ool, hair, and any other 
soft material that may be within reach. Fresh eggs ma}' be found in Ma}- ; and 
it is said that a second brood is often reared. The number varies from five to 
eight, and some writers say even twelve ; but no such case has ever come under 
my notice. They are white with a scarcely perceptible \-ellowisli tinge in ground- 
colour, spotted and speckled with light red. The markings are usually most 
numerous on the large end of the egg." 

I have not personally taken this nest ; but, if it were more abundant, I 
should expect to find that the number of eggs in a full clutch would vary from 
eight to ten, the former being the usual number. 

About August, 1890, a bird-catcher brought me a pair of Marsh-Tits which he 
liad cauglit at Bcckenham in his nets. I turned these birds out with a number 

The Marsh-Tit. 


of Finches wliicli occupied one of my aviaries ; and, after a day or two, they 
were quite at home. Unfortunately that particular aviary was then arranged for 
picturesque effect, with rockery, a shelving shingly bank and a rather deep stream 
some fourteen feet in length. Such attempts to imitate nature are a mistake, 
unless the rockery can be made of smooth slabs of solid stone easily cleaned, and 
even then they are liable to harbour mice. The result as regards my Marsh-Tits 
was, that the hen bird when washing, one cold da}' in Januar3% 1891, either got 
out of her depth or was seized with cramp, and I found her floating dead on the 
surface of the water : she was not the first victim, but her death decided me to 
abandon artistic effect in aviaries. 

The male bird lived some months longer, and made a perfectly innocent and 
very prett}' addition to my feathered family ; he fed principally upon seeds, nuts, 
and suet ; but was always ready for spiders, as well as insects and their larvae 
when they were procurable, and he ate a certain quantit}', though not a great deal 
of the usual soft food ; he was never spiteful ; but, if a beef-bone was suspended 
in the aviar\- he would join a party of Siskins upon it in perfect amity: indeed, 
unlike the Bltie-Tit, he seemed unwilling to dispute over trifles, and if a Siskin 
took a fancy to the position which he occupied on the bone, the Marsh-Tit 
immediately yielded it up. 

As regards longevity in captivity I cannot recommend this, or any of the 
Tits to aviculturists ; possibly they require more insect-food than I was able to 
give them ; but, at any rate, I never succeeded in keeping any of these birds for 
much over a year; and most of them, when opened after death, were clearly 
proved to have died from phthisis, their lungs being studded with miliary nodules. 

158 The Bluk-Tit. 

Family— PARID.^. 

The Blue-Tit. 

Pnrus cccrulcus, LiNN. 

4 4 1~^ISTRIBUTED over the whole of temperate and Southern Europe, as far 

I J east as the Ural Mountains and the Caucasus. In Norwa}', owing to 
the comparative mildness of the climate, it is found as far north as 
lat. 64° ; but in Russia it has not 3-et been obtained further north than lat. 61°. " 
— Seebohm. 

Pretty generally distributed in Great Britain, but rare and local in the north- 
west of Scotland, not recorded from the Hebrides, and in the Orkneys and Shetlands 
only a chance visitor. 

The Blue-Tit is one of the most beautiful of our small birds ; it has the 
crown of the head smalt-blue, completely encircled by a white stripe, commencing 
on the forehead, passing over each eye, and into a bracket-shaped line across the 
back of the head ; behind the latter, at back of head, is a belt of indigo which 
widens at the sides of the neck and divides, its upper ramus passing through the 
eye to the base of the bill and the lower forming a belt round the sides of the 
neck, and uniting with a triangular black patch which occupies the throat and 
chin ; clieeks and ear-coverts white ; nape bluish-ash, whitish in the centre, 
remainder of body above j-ellowish- green ; wings and tail blue, the greater wing- 
coverts tipped with white ; breast and abdomen sulphur-j-ellow, with a more or 
less defined central longitudinal black stripe ; flights and tail feathers below ash- 
grey ; bill smoky, paler at junction of mandibular edges; feet deep bluish-leaden, 
inclining to black ; iris dark brown. The female is altogether somewhat duller 
than tlie male, the cheeks slightly ashy and the under parts suffused with olive- 
greenish. The young are still duller, the blue being less pronounced, and the 
plumage generally more yellow. 

Most observant people are familiar with the Blue-Tit, or Tom-Tit as it is 
frequently called ; yet I have had it described to me as " a foreign bird, evidently 
escaped from some aviary," which shows that even in this enlightened age, there 
arc individuals wliose e3'es arc closed to tlie beauties which abound on ever}- side 





The Blue-Tit. 159 

of them. lu its habits this species does not greatly differ from its congeners : 
wherever trees are it may be seen in more or less abundance, whether in forest, 
plantation, orchard, shrubbery, garden, or hedgerow, and everywhere its various 
calls may be heard as it searches the twigs and branches for food or amuses 
itself in stripping off buds and leaves. Suddenly one of these mites leaves a tree 
and with undulating flight crosses the open to some new field of operations, and 
immediately all the Tits in that tree are after him in a wavering stream anxious 
to see what he is about. 

The love-song of the Blue-Tit is not at all like its call-notes : I carefully took 
it down, and went over it note by note, as a bird in the next garden repeated it: 
this song was — Tcc-tii-tit-twee, tcc-tc-livcc, tce-te-twec ; I have also heard it sing — Wee, 
wee, ivee, t it-tit- titta:* the call-note, however, is tsee, tsee, tsee, and the call of the young 
chec-zck, or sometimes te-uzza, chec-zek ; the scolding-note is a sort of diminutive 
chatter, Seebohm calls it " a harsh chattering note," which I think describes it 
very aptly. 

In its food this bird is almost omnivorous : insects of all kinds (no matter 
how large) and caterpillars, spiders, centipedes, fat, the brains of its sickly relatives, 
fruit, nuts, seeds, bread, potato : all are eaten with relish. In winter, if a bone, 
with a few fragments of meat adhering, is hung up, the Blue-Tit is not the most 
backward of its family in taking advantage of it : it feeds its young on cater- 
pillars, chiefly of the V-moth (Halia vauariaj.\ 

The nest is placed in all kinds of situations : in holes in trees, walls, banks, 
gravel-pits or gate-posts, in lamp-posts, old pumps, in niches in out-houses, on tops 
of walls under overhanging thatches, and behind lattice-work of summer-houses : 
but, whatever the cavity selected, it is thickly lined at the bottom, often at the 
side, and (when exposed behind lattice-work) over-arched, with moss, dead leaves, 
dried grass, feathers, and cobweb : the nest thus formed is entered either from the 
top or front according to its method of construction ; a thick bed of feathers forms 
the inner lining. The eggs, according to my experience, vary in number from 
eight to ten for a full clutch, eight being the usual complement ; but some writers 
have asserted positively that they have found twelve and even as many as eighteen 
in a nest ; in all such cases I should strongly suspect that two hen birds had 
deposited in the same nest : ten is not a common number for I have only once 
found a Blue-Tit on so many eggs; on one other occasion I took ten young ones 

* One of the commouest songs of the Blue-Tit consists of two or three shrill notes, followed by a 
descending trill. 

t This being a Gooseberrj-moth, the blunder has been made of crediting the Blue-Tit with eating 
caterpillars of "the Gooseberry moth (Abraxas giossulatiataj " : I know of no Briiish bird which will touch 
this caterpillar. 


i6o The Blue-Tit. 

out of a nest out of curiosit}', and then replaced them. I should, therefore, regard 
a Blue-Tit which laid twelve eggs as a phenomenon of fecundity, and one reported 
as laying eighteen as a myth. 

In colouring the eggs are snow-white, with the usual pink transparent glow 
when freshly deposited : in spotting they differ not a little ; some eggs at first 
sight appearing to be immaculate, but when closely examined revealing numerous 
dust-like specks of light red and dark grey, principally confined to the larger end; 
a second variety is prett}- evenly sprinkled all o\er with rust-red dots ; a third 
form shows larger spots scattered amongst the smaller markings ; a fourth differs 
from the latter in the presence of splashes of red at the larger end; finally I have 
taken specimens in which gre}- and red-brown spots are massed into a dark zonal 
patch at the larger end. Some of the eggs which I have found, excepting that 
they are perhaps a trifle longer, could not be distinguished from those of the 
Willow-Warbler ; and others, excepting that they are a size smaller, might easily 
be mistaken for those of the Wren. It is not therefore safe to identify eggs of 
this species, unless you have taken them 3'ourself ; and, on no account should the 
statements of peasants be credited for a moment ; since they almost invariably 
confound the Blue-Tit and the Wren. 

There is never an}- difficult}- in identifying the eggs of Tits which one takes, 
because the mother bird is usually in the nest and never far awa}': many a time 
in spite of her hissing and pecking I have lifted her off her eggs and held her 
in one hand whilst I examined the collection to see wdiether it was in condition 
for preservation or too far incubated : if the latter, I had onl}- to open my hand 
to see her at once return to her dut}-. 

I know of no other bird which sits so closely as the Blue-Tit: in my "Hand- 
book of British Oology," I have recorded the fact that on the 27th June, 1881, 
I found the nest of this species in a cavit}- left b}- the removal of a brick in an 
outhouse, where the gardener of the place kept his tools. The nest, when I 
discovered it, contained four eggs onl\- ; perhaps it was the last effort for the 
season, for no more were laid. Each da}- I took one egg, but substituted a marble 
for the last one, on w-hich the Tit was contented to sit ; after three or four da3-s 
I removed the marble, and, a da}' or two later, the nest : what then w-as my 
astonishment, about two days afterwards, to find the stupid bird still squatting in 
the hole in the wall ; she had the sitting fever on her and meant to sit it out ! 

In June, 1889, a nest of ten young Blue-Tits was sent to me, one of which 
unhappily came to hand with a broken leg : instead of nipping off the swinging 
tarsus with a sharp pair of scissors (as I ought to have done) I bound up the 
limb with worsted, the poor little mite looking up in my face all the time, and 

The Blue-Tit. i6i 

repeated!}' saj'ing in a most piteous voice, or so it seemed to me at the time — 
" Ye mustn't forget." The leg united and formed a stiff joint, but unfortunately 
the claws got in the bird's way when it attempted to fl}-, so that at last its chief 
pleasures consisted of eating and bathing, and one morning I found it sitting up 
dead in its bath; possibl}- cramp may have attacked its one useful leg and kept 
it in the cold water until the chill had killed it. Of the remainder two died the 
day after I received them, one a month later, and a fifth was still delicate at the 
end of July ; the five others by this time were quite independent, were as tame as 
white mice and infiuitel}' more amusing (indeed for several months they formed 
the principal attraction to my visitors) they used all to come down upon me the 
moment I entered the aviary, evidently regarding me as a museum of curiosities 
especiall}' designed for their delectation. The}' would all sit together feeding out 
of the palm of my hand ; only, every now and then, they would hop on to one of 
my fingers and begin to hammer at the quick of the uail, which compelled me 
to interfere ; then all five would fly up to the rim of my wideawake and hop 
round, trying to pull the ribbon to pieces ; next I should feel one drop to my 
shoulder, when it would hop to the collar of my coat and pull my ear, or my 
hair. Another favourite occupation was, to start from the bottom of my waistcoat 
and carefully examine and test every button, pull at my watchchain, peck at 
the outer rim of each pocket, then back to my hand, whence they would travel 
by little zigzag hops along my arm to my shoulder. 

Seeing how tame these hand-reared Tits were, I caught twenty others, which 
I turned in with them ; and, although these also became tame enovigh to feed 
from my hand, they never acquired the confidence of my nestlings. Alas ! charming 
as these birds were, they were short-lived : I had provided numerous warmly 
furnished boxes for them to retire to at night, but they would not behave in 
an aviary as they do out of doors, each claimed its own box and fought all 
would-be intruders ; so that, as the nights grew colder, they were quite unable 
to keep warm, and dropped off one at a time : moreover, no sooner did one 
of them become ill and lie in bed in the morning, than callers began to drop 
in to breakfast (not with the invalid, but) upon its brains : this I proved 
repeatedly. Out of doors the whole family would have crept into one hole, or 
into the warmer side of a haystack, and all would probably have survived; but 
good living made them selfish and high-minded, and disaster followed. On the 
15th December only one remained alive, and a severe frost, lasting for twenty- 
two days, in the early part of 1890, killed him: I have given up keeping Blue- 
Tits since that time. 

i62 Thk Crested Tit. 

Family— PARI D.E. 

The Crested Tit. 

Partis cristatiis, LiNN. 

NEVER having personally met with this extremely local species, I am 
compelled to base ra}' account of it entirely upon the writings of others ; 
a course which, when possible, it is always best to avoid. 

As regards its distribution on the Continent, Howard Saunders writes: — "The 
Crested Titmouse inhabits the pine-forests of Scandinavia and Russia to about 
64° N. lat. ; and eastward it can be traced as far as the valleys of the Don and 
the Volga. In German}', wherever conifers are plentiful, and in the higher districts 
of France, the bird is to be found in tolerable abundance ; it also breeds in Dutch 
Brabant, principally in oak-trees, for it is by no means restricted to firs ; and in the 
Alps, Carpathians, and other ranges of Central Europe it is generally distributed. 
In some parts of the Higher Pyrenees I found it the most abundant of the genus ; 
while in the south of France and in Spain it ma}' often be observed among trees 
close by the sea. In the latter country it breeds in the cork-woods in the vicinity 
of Gibraltar, as well as on higher ground ; and it is ahso common in Portugal." 

Respecting its distribution in Great Britain, Seebohm says : — " Its only known 
breeding-grounds in the British Islands are in Scotland, in the valley of the Spey 
and in the adjoining counties of Ross and Inverness on the west, and Aberdeen 
on the east. In winter its distribution is a little more extended, and Mr. Gray 
remarks that it has been obtained as far south as Perthshire. In the western 
counties of Scotland but two specimens have been obtained — one in 1838, near 
Barcaldine House, in Argyleshire, and another, of which the exact date is not 
known, taken near Dumbarton." 

" In England, Mr. Harting, in his ' Handbook,' records eight instances of its 
occurrence; Mr. Simpson records another in the 'Zoologist,' for 1872, p. 3021, and 
Baron Von Hiigel one more specimen in the same periodical for 1874, p. 4065." 

As to the reputed occurrence of two specimens of the Crested Tit in Ireland, 
authorities are not agreed ; therefore it is safest to doubt. 

The male Crested Tit, when adult, has the feathers of the head black, margined 
with ashy- white ; those from the crown backwards elongated so as to form a well- 

The Crested Tit. 163 

defined crest ; from the nape backwards the upper parts are olivaceous-brown, the 
flights and tail being smoky-brown ; face white, mottled with black ; a black stripe 
from the base of the bill, through the eye to the back of the head and thence 
descending, so as to bound the ear-coverts and cheeks ; behind this is a white 
band again bounded by a black stripe which crosses over the back of the head, 
round the neck and unites with a black gorget which occupies the centre of the 
chin, throat, and breast ; remainder of under parts sordid-white, suffused at the 
sides with brownish-buff; bill black; feet leaden-grey; iris brown. 

The female differs from the male in its shorter crest and more restricted 
throat-patch : the young are similar, but with still shorter crest. 

The Crested Tit breeds throughout the pine-forests of Europe ; but it is also 
said to frequent birch-plantations. Seebohm informs us that " in autumn it 
partially forsakes the pine-forests, where it breeds, and is seen in winter in many 
of the small woods and plantations, and even the gardens, in the neighbouring 
districts ; but even in these localities it prefers the pine to any other tree." 

It is curious that the Crested Tit should hitherto not have been met with in 
Morocco; but Dixon, in his "Birds of Algeria," observes: — "The Crested Titmouse, 
Pariis cristatus, may 3'et be found to inhabit the Algerian or Moroccan forests." 

The call-note of this bird is said to be a rather weak si, si, si, followed by a 
sort of trill which has been rendered ptur, re, re, re, ree : the call-note of many of 
the Tits has been similarl}^ rendered si, si, si; but when carefully analyzed it 
resolves itself into fsay, or c/ue, or /see : in any case it is probable that the 
combination of si, si, si, with a terminal trill represents the song, and a single 
sharp si or isee the call-note (of course this opinion is only based upon observation 
of other species, and may be incorrect). 

In the south-west of France the nest is stated to be usually placed behind 
the loosened bark of pine-trees ; in Germany in deserted nests of Crows, Magpies, 
or Squirrels ; and in Scotland, in holes bored into rotten fir-stumps, at altitudes 
of from two to eight feet above the ground ; sometimes it is said to lay its eggs 
in deserted Wren's nests, but as it has also been stated that it sometimes builds 
a nest of this character itself (which a study of the other species of Parus would 
lead one to believe highly probable) the observation respecting its occupation of 
Wren's nests may be erroneous, and should only be accepted after full confir- 
mation. At the same time, it is likely enough, if its own nest were destroyed 
just when it was laying, that it would utilize such a structure ; inasmuch as I 
have even found eggs of the Blue-Tit, upon which the mother bird was sitting, 
in a Sand-Martin's nest.* 

• I took this nest for my collection ; and, as it contained only three slightly incubated eggs, it is certain 
that the first part of the clutch had been previously deposited elsewhere. 

S 2 

i6| Family Sittid.c 

The nest itself is formed of the usual materials — moss, dr}' grass, wool, feathers, 
aud fur; constructed generally about the end of April, or beginning of Ma3\ The 
eggs are said to number from four to eight, the full clutch probably would be 
from six to eight, if one may judge from its congeners. In colouring they seem 
to vary much as in the other species ; they are white, spotted and speckled with 
brownish or sienna-red, sometimes all over, sometimes in blotches, or with a zone 
towards the larger end, occasionall}* with an irregular patch at that end. 

It is very probable that, in Germany, this species may be kept in aviaries, 
but in England I have only seen it at bird-shows ; Swaysland, however, speaks 
of it as "a very desirable addition to an aviary of Tits," therefore he may 
possibly have been more fortunate. 


THIS group is represented in Great Britian by only one species, which 
Seebohm regarded merely as an aberrant genus of Tits ; but he stated 
rightly, that " In their habits thej- resemble the Woodpeckers and the 
Creepers more than the true Tits." Nevertheless in their activit}' and many of 
their actions Nuthatches are ver}' Tit-like ; so also, in the strength of their bills 
and feet, the position and covering of the nostrils, their short first primary, 
scutellated tarsi aud hooked hind-claw, they show Purine affinities, whilst their 
eggs are extremely Tit-like in character. 

Our Nuthatch, though it approaches the Titmice, could never be confounded 
with them ; it has more nearly the aspect of a dull washed-out Liotltrix, 3'et with 
a little longer bill : it seems therefore far better to follow Howard Saunders, and 
regard it as the representation of a distinct, though allied, famil}'. In one respect 
it differs very widely from the Tits in habits, and that is in its use of cla}' to 
lessen the size of a hole containing its nest, aud the very meagre character of 
the nest itself. 

In Vol. \^III of the "Catalogue of Birds in the British Museum," Dr. Gadow 
regards the Nuthatches as a Subfamil}' of the Creepers (Cctiliiidcc), practicalh' 
ignoring the affinity of the former to the Titmice ; but, apart from the total 


>• " A 


f ■ 




Nuthatch j ."t^. 

Plate 44. 

The Nuthatch. 165 

dissimilarity in the bills of the Creepers and Nuthatches, the latter are decidedly- 
less insectivorous, and their manner of sitting across a branch to crack a nut, is 
infinitely more suggestive of a Tit than a Creeper; whilst their softer shorter 
tails, stouter legs, and the character of their nostrils, serve at once to distinguish 
them from the Ceythiida. 

As a student of Bird-life, rather than of Bird-mummies, the convenience of a 
distinct family for the Nuthatch commends itself to the writer. 


The Nuthatch. 

Sitta cccsia, WOLF. 

THE British race is found on the Continent northward as far as Jutland ; it 
is generally distributed from the Baltic southwards to the Mediterranean 
and Black Seas, and is said to occur in Algeria and Morocco ; eastwards 
its range is uncertain. 

In England it is pretty generally distributed, being common in well-wooded 
districts of the southern and central counties, but in the northern counties it is 
much rarer and more local ; in Scotland it has occurred three or four times, but 
in Ireland it appears to be unknown. 

The male Nuthatch, when adult, has the upper parts slate- grey, the flights 
smoky-brown, with greyer margins ; two central tail-feathers slate-grey, remaining 
feathers with the basal three-fourths black, then crossed by a white bar, bej'ond 
which they are grey : a black stripe from base of upper mandible, through the 
eye, to the side of the neck separating the gre}' of the crown and nape from the 
buffish-white cheeks, ear-coverts, chin, and front of throat ; remainder of under 
surface buff, streaked and shaded with deep chestnut on the flanks and sides of 

1 66 The Nuthatch. 

under tail-coverts, the centre of the latter being whitish ; bill leaden-gre}-, the 
lower mandible paler, but especiallj- at the base ; feet brown ; iris hazel. 

The female is a little duller than the male, the chestnut on the flanks being 
less pronounced ; the j'oung are still duller, and paler on the flanks. 

Restless, indefatigable, quick in its actions, the Nuthatch ma}- be seen running 
upwards or downwards like a mouse over the rugged trunks of lofty trees, frequently 
travelling in jerky zigzag fashion, searching in ever}' crack and cranny for insect 
food ; yet, unlike orthodox good children, the Nuthatch is much more frequently 
heard than seen, for it is of a very modest and retiring disposition. 

Stevenson obser\-es respecting this species : — " much amusement lias been 
afforded me, after discovering their haunts, by placing nuts, or their kernels only, 
in such situations as would enable me to watch the actions of these birds. In 
confinement the young become very tame, and from their activity and quaintness 
in every movement are most engaging pets, but sadly destructive to any woodwork 
within their reach. If constantly supplied with fresh bark, they never tire of 
searching each corner and crevice for insect food, clinging to it in every imagin- 
able attitude with their strong claws whilst beating all the while with their beaks 
a very ' devil's tattoo,' unpleasantly suggestive, in its persistent monotony, of the 
busiest moments of a coffin-maker." 

The Nuthatch is one of our early breeders, usually commencing to build 
about the middle of April ; the site chosen is most frequently a hole in a tree, 
generally in a branch, but sometimes close to the ground; a hole in a wall is not 
infrequently chosen, and rarely in the side of a haystack; tlie single recorded nest 
of this type in the British Museum having been mentioned by almost every writer 
on British Birds, on account apparently of its weight : the entrance to the hole, 
in which the apology for a nest is placed, being always filled up with clay until 
only a small aperture is left for the passage of the birds in and out. Lord Lilford 
speaks of their using also old mortar or cement, which they must somehow have 
managed to moisten and render serviceable; possibly they mixed it with wet clay. 

The nest itself consists merely of a few leaves, often of oak ; a few scales of 
fir-bark ; or a little dry grass ; at some distance from the entrance to the hole. 
The eggs, which vary in number from five to eight, very closely resemble those 
of the Great Tit, but are larger and frequently with deeper red-brown spots, bolder 
in character and intermixed with lavender or greyish shell-spots : the diff"erent 
forms of the egg are just what one finds among the Tits, the spots larger or 
smaller, evenly distributed, massed in a zone near the larger end, or forming an 
irregular patch at that end. 

The song of the Nuthatch consists of a prolonged soft whistle, followed by a 

The Nuthatch. 167 

bubbling twitter ; but its call-note is a shrill tvhit-whit. The food in summer 
principally consists of insects, in search of which it sometimes comes in contact 
with various Tits or even the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, towards which it ex- 
hibits its ver}- pugnacious disposition. In the autumn, when insects are becoming 
scarce, it turns to nuts, beech-mast, seeds of conifers, and berries ; and in the 
winter it will approach houses to feed on refuse scraps. 

As a cage-bird the Nuthatch is constantl}' increasing in popularity ; as the 
numbers now exhibited at our shows testify. When reared from the nest it 
becomes just as tame and confiding as the species of Tits, running over and 
examining its owner in the same manner ; but even adult birds caught wild, 
although at first they show impatience of captivit}' after the manner of all the Tit- 
like birds, do not (as Seebohm asserts) necessarily die on that account : perhaps if 
kept in a small cage the violent blows which they deal in their frantic rage at close 
confinement after liberty, may injure the front of the skull and thus produce death; 
but this is also the case with the Great Tit when similarly treated. The best 
plan with all these birds when first captured is to give them plenty of room in 
a box-cage, the back of which should be covered with virgin-cork, behind which 
(when alarmed) they may retire. For a day or two it is well to cover the front 
of the cage with muslin, which renders all newly caught birds less liable to attempt 
escape in that direction ; gradually accustom them to yowx presence, always offering 
them delicacies until they learn to trust you : for as Lord Lilford says : — " The 
kernel of a hazel or ground-nut is an irresistible morsel, and will tempt an old 
wild-caught Nuthatch to snatch it from the fingers very soon after capture." 


i68 Family Troglodvtid.h. 


TIIlv Wrens are represented in Great Britain b}' one species only; the 
St. Kilda Wren, to which Mr. Seebohm gave the name of T. kirtensis, 
being now considered a mere local variation, and inseparable from some 
of those found on the Continent. 

Dr. Sharpe regards the Wrens as a mere Subfamily of the Tivieliida (Babbling 
Thrushes) remarking,* "In their habits and in their form the Wrens are essentially 
Timeliiue. The}^ possess the strong, even clumsy, legs and concave rounded wings 
which distinguish this group of birds, and they do not migrate, as a rule. The 
nests are generally domed, and hence one of the reasons for retaining the Dippers 
in the family. The principal characteristic, however, of a Wren, and one that 
separates them from the true Timeliine birds, is the almost entire absence of 
rictal bristles." 

Seebohm, on the other hand regards the Wrens as aberrant Tits ; so far as I 
can make out, solely on the ground that their eggs are almost identical : he admits 
that they are "Timeliine in their habits, skulking in underwood, and without 
undulation in their flight." 

Doubtless the affinities of the Wren are rather Timeliine than Parine ; but 
most students of British Birds are not familiar with Bulbuls, Shamas, and the 
like ; moreover, if the}' were, they would probabl}^ fail to see an}' resemblance 
between the long-tailed, stout-billed, conical-crested Persian, or Red-vented Bulbuls, t 
and our stumpy little cock-tailed Wren, whilst the cave-like nest of the latter, if 
it be an argument in favour of the affinity of the Dipper to the Wrens, must also 
argue against the close relationship of the Bulbuls to the latter birds. 

The most convenient plan, therefore, seems to be that adopted by Air. Howard 
Saunders — to regard the Wrens as a Family rather than a Subfamily. 

* "Catalo.i^ue of Birds," vol. VI, p. i8o. 

t- The crests of birds arc uol ragged, as usually shown iu illuslialious, l»iil loriii a regular 
uubrokiii lull.- .il Uie l).ii.k. 



Pl\t£ 46 

The Wren. 169 

Faml/y— TROGL OD 1 'T/D. E. 

The Wren. 

Troglodvtes parvulus, KocH. 

OCCURS throughout Europe up to 65° N. lat. in Scandinavia and North 
Russia, occurring in Morocco and Algeria, also in the Caucasus, Northern 
Persia, xA.sia Minor, and Northern Palestine. 

In Great Britain it is generally distributed and resident ; but, as with man}' 
more resident species, its numbers are greatl}' added to in the autumn by 

The adult male has the upper surface rich rufous brown, the crown and nape 
appearing slightly darker ; thence barred throughout with deeper brown ; the 
primaries brighter, their outer webs barred with pale-buff; a buf&sh-white streak 
over the ej^e ; under surface pale-brownish, more rufous and darker on the flanks, 
belly, and under tail-coverts, which are also barred with smoky-brown ; bill dark- 
brown above, paler below ; feet pale-brown ; iris dark-brown. The female is 
slightly smaller, duller in colouring, with paler legs. Young birds are slightly 
more rufous and less strongly barred. 

From its remarkably confiding habits the Wren has become as well-known as 
the Robin ; and, incredible as it may seem, there are still many persons living who 
believe it to be the female of that familiar bird ; their study of Natural History 
has apparently ceased from the period when they let go of their nurse's apron- 
string, and the old rhyme — " Cock Robin and Jenny Wren, are God's A'mighty's 
cock and hen," is regarded by them as inspired truth. Curiously enough, whereas 
the Robin seems to be everywhere held in superstitious reverence, the poor little 
Wren is remorselessly hunted to death in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the south 
of France, for no better reason. 

Although bold and fearless in the winter, the Wren is more frequently heard 
than seen in the summer months ; although, in the spring, I have seen it sitting 
in a low tree singing merrily enough : the song bears some resemblance to that 
of the Hedge- Sparrow, but is much more varied, more rapid, and usually terminates 
in a trill : the call is tsit-sit-sif, often repeated over and over again, as the little 
bird drops from twig to twig in the cover. Excepting when feeding the young. 

lyo The Wren. 

and when moulting, the Wren's song may al\va3s be heard ; it is loud and brilliant, 
rather than melodious. 

When breeding, and it is an earlj- breeder, there is no British bird more 
jealous of its nest : to be seen watching a Wren at work is often sufficient to 
condemn the half-completed building, a fact which I have proved b}' actual 
experiment : this excessive nervousness is probably the sole cause for the many 
imperfect or deserted nests which occur, and which are supposed by rustics to be 
purposel}- constructed as roosting-places for the male birds. But, after all, the 
same notion has been countenanced, even by scientific men, respecting the incom- 
plete nests formed by unpaired males of the Ba3-a Weaver ; whereas, in the latter 
case, the nest is always completed bj' the combined labours of both sexes, and 
apparentl}' cannot be managed by one sex unaided. 

Ouly once was I ever successful in removing eggs from a Wren's nest, 
without causing desertion ; and then I chanced to discover some small oval white 
pebbles close to the gorse-bush in which the nest was suspended, and substituted 
them for the eggs ; but I was ver}' careful not to touch the nest with m}- fingers, 
using a metal spoon to remove the eggs. The hen bird was evidently far away 
at the time ; for, had she seen me, I do not believe she would have continued to 
lay ; as she certainly did. 

On the other hand Air. Reginald Phillipps sa3's that he has known of a nest, 
which had had a clutch removed, used again, even though the eggs of the second 
clutch were removed every da}' as thej' were laid. If he had said that he himself 
had taken part in or even witnessed this extraordiuarj- feat, I should have felt 
bound to regard it as a very remarkable and entirel}' unparalleled fact ; as it is 
— well, ni)' experience is diametrically opposed to that of his informant. The 
Blue-Tit, which is one of the most confiding of birds, is often confounded with 
the Wren, and doubtless man}' tales told of the latter relate to the former. 

I have found nests of the Wren built in the following sites : — in hedges ; 
hawthorn-bushes ; furze ; laurels ; in iv}' on walls, or clambering round the entrances 
to caves or grottoes ; against trunks of trees, either openly near the ground or 
higher up in the trailing ivy ; in brambles and straggling scrub in woods, where 
masses of the previous Acar's leaves have collected in the vines ; under overhanging 
edges of steep banks; in faggot-, clover-, or haj'-stacks ; under projecting thatches 
of sheds and outhouses ; upon a beam in a barn : but niVir in holes. 

In the materials used for the nest, the Wren appears to select usuall}' such 
as will tend to conceal it ; the fact being that it builds ver}- largely with those 
which are most handy ; thus nests bedded in heaps of dead leaves are externally 
largely constructed of leaves, those in evergreen shrubs arc also usually formed of 

The Wren. 171 

dead leaves, those in trailing creepers in which dead leaves have lain until moss 
has grown on them, are largely formed of the same rank moss ; but a nest against 
the bare trunk of a tree is largely made up out of straws and stiff bents, the ends 
of which can be forced behind the loosened bark to support the structure. In 
form the nest is cave-like ; domed, spherical, or oblong, with entrance in front, the 
lower edge of which is always strengthened with transverse twigs or stiff bents, 
so as to form a sort of perch or door-step : the walls are thick and fairly firm, 
often formed of dry stalks and dead leaves, commingled with fibre ; but, in a barn 
wholly of straw ; sometimes almost entirely of moss, whilst instances have been 
recorded of nests formed entirely of clover. The inner lining consists, I believe 
invariably, of a little moss and three or four soft feathers. 

As regards the number of eggs in a nest, opinions differ ; chiefly, I imagine, 
owing to the fact that collectors have trusted to rustics to obtain clutches for them, 
instead of taking them invariably (as they should do) with their own hands : con- 
sequently the average peasant who does not, as I have repeatedly proved, know 
the diflference between a Wren and a Blue-Tit, brings clutches of eggs from nests 
of the latter, asserting that he took them from Wren's nests. 

In my experience the Wren never lays more than six for a full clutch, and 
I dare say that I have either taken, or examined without touching, something like 
fifty nests ; therefore, if more than six are ever deposited, the number must be 
very abnormal ; Seebohm's statement as to the number is probably based largely 
upon the assertions of others, which have been copied from work to work : his first 
observation "The eggs of the Wren vary from four to six" representing his 
personal experience, but the continuation — "and even eight or nine in number" 
with what follows, are probably not original, but must be traced to the fact that, 
excepting in their slightly superior size, the eggs of the Wren (in all their 
varieties) are extremely similar to those of the Blue-Tit. Mr. Frohawk has taken 
many nests, but he tells me that he has never found more than six eggs.* 

On the 31st September, 1887, a specimen of this species, caught in my 
large Thrush-trap, was placed in a Linnet-cage and immediately escaped through 
the wires into my greenhouse, where it was so nimble in dodging us, that a full 
hour elapsed before it could be caught and placed in a large cage. In the evening 
I found it asleep clinging to the wire netting, and in the morning it was dead. 
Two or three years later I caught another, and turned it loose in an aviary sixteen 
feet long, where it seemed perfectly at home at once, behaving quite naturally, 
showing no alarm whatever, but examining the rockwork (then in the aviary) most 

• In 1896, at least two men who sliould be able to recognize a Wren's nest, wrote to the "Feathered 
World" asserting that they had taken several clutches of seven eggs, during the past season, in the North ; but, 
even if this were proved, it would not alter the fact that the full clutch is usually si.i: 


172 Family Certhiid.e. 

diligently, and extracting spiders from the various holes and crevices. Unhappily 
I could not persuade this bird to eat anything but living insects, woodlice, and 
spiders ; it would not look at soft food (of which there was plenty in the aviar}-) 
but having devoured every spider, insect and woodlouse which it could find, it simph- 
starved itself to death : wh}- a bird which, in winter, will join the Robins and 
Sparrows round our houses to feed on bread-crumbs, and which is also said to eat 
seeds and small fruits, should have refused to touch these articles of food, prefer- 
ring rather to die of inanition, is a myster3^ Perhaps, though outwardly calm and 
natural, this bird inwardl}' chafed at its captivit}', and onlj' living food had the 
power to tempt it to eat. Anyway the conclusion to which my experience has led 
me is — If you would keep Wrens as pets, it is safest to rear them from the nest. 


THIS group of birds is again referred to the Parina: by Seebohm, who 
remarks that " In their rounded wings, small bastard primar}^ scutellated 
tarsus, and large feet with well developed hind toe, the species of this 
genus fCerthia) are tj'pical Parina:'" yet, on the same page, he admits that "The 

Creepers are somewhat aberrant members of the Subfamily Parina^' which 

seems a little contradictory. 

It appears to mc that, in his classification of birds, Seebohm allowed himself 
to be too much influenced b_v the character of the eggs ; although the admission 
of Accentor among the Tits was a distinct deviation from this tendenc}*. Much as 
one respects and admires a man who upholds his own views in opposition to the 
opinion of a majority, one does not feel bound to follow his lead, unless he can 
bring forward convincing evidence in support of those views. 

The Creepers differ from the Tits in their much longer bills with elongated 
nostrils, the crown of the head never crested, the tail-feathers stiff and pointed 
like those of the Woodpeckers, which the}' also much resemble in their habits : 
they are distinctl}' more insectivorous than Tits ; and, in their search for food, are 



The Tree-Creeper. 173 

more strictly arboreal iu their habits, confining their attentions chiefly to the 
trunks and larger branches of trees, ronnd which the}' run in a spiral curve. 

Our Tree-Creeper, even in its nidification cannot strictly be said to resemble 
the Tits : certainly I never discovered true Titmice building their nests behind 
loosened bark : indeed Seebohm himself admits that " their nests are all either 
loosely made in holes of trees and walls, or suspended from the branches." Dr. 
Gadow, however, says that the Ccrthtidce nest in holes ; but, even admitting this, 
the nidification of the Creepers does not prove their affinity to the Tits, any more 
than that of the Woodpeckers evidences their relationship to the Parrots. 

Family— CER THIW^. 

The Tree-Creeper. 

Certhia fainiliaris, LiNN. 

RESPECTING the geographical distribution of this species, Dr. Gadow says 
that " it inhabits nearly all the Palsearctic and Nearctic regions. It is 
found from Ireland and Spain to Norway, Palestine, Persia, Eastern 
Turkestan, and Western China, being likewise found throughout Russia and the 
greater part of Siberia. Still more to the eastwards it gradually loses much of 
the dark colours, so that the white becomes predominant, and all the underparts, 
including the under tail-coverts, become pure white. We may therefore look 
upon the birds of Amoor-land, Eastern Siberia, and Japan as a pale race. I have, 
however, seen specimens from Piedmont and South France (C. CostceJ in Mr. 
Dresser's collection which are nearly as pale as the eastern birds. The Tree- 
Creepers in Canada, and in the United States, eastward of the Rocky Mountains, 
are like our European form." * 

• Catalogue of Birds, Vol. VIII, p. 325. 

174 The Tree-Creeper. 

In Great Britain it is pretty generall}^ distributed, especiall}' affecting well- 
timbered districts : it has not, however, been recorded from the Outer Hebrides. 

When adult this species has the upper surface dark brown, with pale huffish 
centres to the feathers, the lower back and rump more rufous ; wing-coverts 
tipped with pale buff; flights dark brown with paler bars, the secondaries with 
buffish-white tips ; tail-feathers rufous-brown with paler shafts ; a whitish super- 
ciliary streak ; under surface silky-white, the flanks and under tail-coverts suffused 
with buff; bill dark brown above, yellowish below; feet brown; iris hazel. Sexes 
similar, excepting that the female is slightly smaller than the male. The 3-oung 
have a much shorter and straight bill. 

This interesting little resident bird, owing to its mouse-like manner of creep- 
ing over the bark of trees, is often overlooked, for excepting when its conspicuous 
white underparts come into view, as it passes rapidly round the side of a trunk, it 
is not easily seen : moreover, I have noticed that, when it becomes aware of an 
onlooker, it immediately slips round to the opposite side of the tree upon which 
it is seeking its insect food, and then only its weak note cheet-cheet reveals its 
presence. In the outskirts of the Kentish woods,* I have once or twice caught 
a glimpse of it rapidly traversing the trunk of some large tree in an ascending 
spiral until it reached the branches, passing round one of these for a short distance 
then fluttering with undulating downward flight, almost to the roots of another 
tree, which it ascended in like manner ; but I never could get ver}^ close to this 
little bird until one autumn, when from my bedroom window, I saw two specimens 
ascending the trunk of an oak-tree in ni}' front garden and was able to note how 
they stopped at ever}' two or three feet to probe some crevice in the bark. 

W. Warde Fowler, in liis " Summer Studies of Birds and Books," has an 
interesting note on the song of this bird as heard b\- liim in Switzerland ; he 
saj's : — " When I was last at Bern we did not stay there long, but went on in 
the aftenioon to the Hotel Bellevue at Thun, where there is an extensive garden. 
Next morning I was out before breakfast in this garden, and soon heard a voice 
that was new to me. If this happens after May, when all the foliage is out, I 
know I may be teased for a while, and so it happened that morning. Wherever 
I went, there was the mysterious voice — clearlj- that of a very small bird, feeble 
and shrill, though contented and unobtrusive. Five little syllables of different 
length were constantly repeated, getting a little higher in pitch towards the end : 
* hvee-hvcc-hv-lwec-t.'' It was late in the morning when I found that it was nothing 
in the world but our common little Tree-creeper. Now, I can count on my fingers 

• 111 the Uleau woods, near the village of Heme, formerly one of my favourite liutomolojjical hunting 

The Tree-Creeper. 175 

the number of times that I have heard the Creeper sing, and on those rare 
occasions in England I have never heard the notes I have just described. But 
there is no doubt that birds speak with a different accent in different localities." 
There is not the least doubt that this is the case, for it is a fact well known 
to bird-catchers, and it only shows the importance of a careful study of bird-song. 
Without question, the late Mr. Witchell, though some of his theories as to the 
origin of bird-music seem somewhat strained and improbable, has done good work 
by his researches in this direction. 

The Tree-Creeper commences nidificatiou towards the end of April ; usually 
selecting as a site an opening behind the partly detached bark on the trunk of a 
tree, less frequently, a crevice left by the breaking away of plaster in an out- 
building, in a woodstack or heap of bricks, occasionally behind the eaves of a shed, 
or even (so it is said) " in the foundation of the nest of a large bird of prey." 
The nest itself is iisually placed on a foundation of twigs, the outer walls being 
formed of finer twigs intermixed with roots, and lined with fine root-fibre, moss, 
grass, fine strips of bark, and sometimes a few feathers. The eggs which are 
stated to number from six to nine in the first nest, and from three to five in the 
second, are pure white, spotted and sometimes blotched with reddish-brown, and 
with greyish-lavender underlying markings ; the spots frequently form a well- 
defined zone round the larger end, sometimes they are few and dark, sometimes 
scattered and paler. 

A nest in my collection pronounced by Mr. Seebohm to be unquestionably 
that of a Tree-Creeper, is a somewhat flimsy little open cup which was built in a 
cluster of twigs projecting from the trunk on an oak-tree at a height of about 
eight feet from the ground ; it contains six well-marked zoned eggs : another 
distinguished Ornithologist to whom I showed this nest, was of opinion that it 
was that of a subspecies or phase of the Wood- Warbler (or a bird so exactly like 
that species, that its singular type of nest alone served to distinguish it). He told 
me that he had seen others of the same character and from similar sites. This 
nest has a good deal of spiders' silk in the lining. 

In addition to insects, the Tree-Creeper (like all insectivorous birds) is very 
fond of spiders ; it is said also to eat the seeds of the Scotch fir. 

Although hardly a suitable subject for cage-life, I have seen several examples, 
probably hand-reared, at bird-shows ; in a large aviary they would be more 
interesting, though perhaps difficult to feed. 


176 Family MoTACiLLiDyE. 

Fam ily— CER THUD. E. 

The Wall-Creeper. 

TichodrovHx munuia, Lixx. 

THE claim of this species to be called British is very slight : one example 
having beeu shot in Norfolk and recorded in a letter to White, uf Selbome, 
in 1792; and a second in Lancashire, in 1872, mentioned b}- JMr. F. S. 
Mitchell. A third specimen, obtained in Sussex, has recently been brought to 
light by Mr. W. Ruskin Butterfield. 


THE Wagtails, or "Dish-washers" and "Whip-jacks" as the peasants call 
them, are the most graceful of all our British birds ; they are characterized 
b}' their long slender bills, legs, and tails ; by the minuteness of the tenth 
primar_v or remicle in the wing ; the tarsus scaled in front, but not behind. Tlie 
Pipits are nearly allied to the above, but have somewhat shorter tails in proportion 
to their wings, the feathers of the tail also forming a slight fork at the extremit}'. 
The Motacillid(V pass through a complete moult in the autumn, like other 
Passeres ; but if, as has been stated, they moult again in the spring, I can onl}- 
say that the species which I have kept in cage and aviar}-, must have swallowed 
the feathers which they shed (which is improbable to say tlie least of it) : the 
change into the breeding plumage is very gradual, the colour growing in the 
feathers themselves. The supposed moulting of many birds in spring, seems to 
be mysteriousl}- dispensed with in favour of a change of colour, as soon as they 

The Pied Wagtail. 177 

are brought i;nder close observation. In some birds, however, a few feathers, 
which represent a sort of winter coat, drop out during the change of plumage : 
this is certainly the case with some, if not all of the African Weavers,* (whether 
J'idume or Ploccine) ; although most of the marvellous transformation in these 
birds is produced as a general rule by change of colour, and the growth of new 
overlapping flank and tail plumes. 

As aviary birds the Wagtails are among those most easy to keep and tame; 
and, provided that a little insect food can be given occasionally, no birds are less 
trouble to their owners. 

Famiix —MOT A CI L LID, E. 

The Pied Wagtail. 

Motacilla lugubris, Temm. 

CHIEFLY confined to the western countries of Europe, this Wagtail occurs 
also in N.W. Africa : in the autumn stragglers have been killed from 
Nice to Sardinia, Sicily, and Malta. In Great Britain it is common and 
generally distributed, and excepting in the extreme north, whence it migrates 
southwards at the approach of winter, it is a partial resident. 

The colouring of this bird in breeding plumage is very pleasing ; the upper 
parts intense silky black, but tlie forehead, sides of head and a more or less 
prominent streak or patch (confluent with the latter) on the sides of the neck 
snow-white ; wing-coverts and innermost secondaries margined with white ; two 
outermost tail-feathers on each side mostly white ; quill feathers of wings blackish 

* ] tiii])loy tlif term ou1> for llioije birds called Weavers by aviculturists, uot for all the members of the 
I'amih' Ptocddo!. 

178 The Pied Wagtail. 

brown ; chiu, throat, and breast black, the latter confluent with the black on the 
shoulder ; belly white ; the sides and flanks blackish ; bill and feet black ; iris 
dark brown. The female is similar, but somewhat gre3^er above. Young birds 
have the white areas tinted with yellow ; the upper parts gre}', shading into 
blackish on the upper tail coverts ; under parts slightl}' paler, fading into whitish 
on the under tail-coverts. 

After the autumn moult the entire colouring is less pure, and the black of 
the chin and throat are replaced by white. 

Although usually seen in the neighbourhood of streams, dykes, pools, ponds, 
and puddles, it is not uncommonly met with far from water in grazing-ground, 
ploughed fields, especiall}- when the furrows are newly formed; whilst in the winter 
it often enters gardens, and approaches close to the houses of the owners, if 
rendered hungry b}- stress of weather. Old brickfields are a common resort of 
this species, more especially where the emptied clay-deposits have filled up with 
water, and their margins have become fringed with coarse vegetation : indeed all 
Wagtails seem to delight in such a scene of desolation, for on one morning about 
the end of Ma)', 1883, I saw the Pied-, Blue- headed-, and Yellow Wagtails in a 
large field of this description at Murston, near Sittingbourne, Kent. 

The springy see-sawing of the tail, common to all the Motacillida:, has probably 
earned for them in Kent the title of "Whipjack," whilst the fondness of Wagtails 
for bathing in shallow water explains their more wide-spread nickname of " Dish- 
washer ; " the latter name and that by which they are known in Sussex — Chizzic 
(the origin of which is evident) apply more particularly to the Pied Wagtail than 
to the others. 

The song of this species is very pleasing ; not unlike that of a Swallow : 
personally I prefer it to that of the Linnet, inasmuch as it is purer and less 
chuckling in character and better sustained, though not so loud and much more 
rarel}' heard. In flight, as on the ground, the actions of this and all Wagtails 
are graceful ; for on the wing they move in a series of wide undulations or dips, 
but on their slender nimble legs they walk with head erect but slightly bobbing 
forward at each step ; or the}' run, with head lowered and craned forward : their 
power of turning in the air is astounding ; few insects, however eccentric their 
flight, can hope to escape them. If a Wagtail is on the ground and it sees an 
insect flying towards it, instead of at once starting madly forward to meet its 
pre}', it excitedly watches all the insect's movements, and suddenly (when the 
latter is almost overhead) the agile bird rises with a rapid spiral movement which 
looks almost like a somersault, the snap of its mandibles is heard and all is over. 
In sunny weather one ma}- frequently see the Pied Wagtail running along the 

The Pied Wagtail. 179 

ridge of a roof, a stone coping, or an old wall, catching the flies as they start up 
at its approach, and frequently uttering its cheerful little cry " chizzic," as each 
new victim is perceived : whether this is its call-note or the shrill monosyllabic 
short whistle (into which the bird can throw so much expression that it almost 
seems to speak) I do not know for certain, but I am inclined, from long study of 
this species in captivity, to believe that " chizzic'' is merely a cry of excitement. 

The Pied Wagtail usually builds its nest in hollows in banks, sides of deserted 
chalk-pits, Sand-Martin's holes, gaps in brickwork under rustic bridges, in a hole 
in a wall just above water, or a crevice in a rock ; but it sometimes places it in 
gnarled roots of trees, in faggot-stacks, in ivy on the top of a low wall, and I 
once took one formed in a deserted Blackbird's nest built in ivy on the top of 
the trunk of a branchless oak. Nidificatiou lasts from April to June, but most 
nests may be found towards the end of May : indeed my experience would incline 
me to regard noue of the Wagtails as early breeders, though forward individuals 
may be ready to nest in April. 

The nest is coustructed of dry bents, rootlets, and a little moss, and is 
thickly lined with wool, or feathers and hair : it is somewhat large and shallow 
in character, frequently with one side higher than the other, if it be possible for 
a circular rim to have sides. The eggs vary in number from four to six, the 
latter being a frequent clutch ; in colouring they are tolerably uniform, differing 
chiefly in the paler or darker ground tint (though it is always light) and more or 
less heavy speckling at the larger end ; the ground colour is either a greenish- 
white or pale greenish- grey, the speckling is grey or smoky-brown (a few of the 
dots often approaching black) some of the markings being more prominent than 
others. The House-Sparrow sometimes la3'S a similar egg, only generally of a 
more elongated shape. 

The Pied Wagtail is largely insectivorous ; but, in addition to insects, their 
larvae, spiders, centipedes, and (according to the late Mr. Booth) the ova of a small 
crab, I believe that in the winter seeds are swallowed by it. At any rate this is 
certainly the case in an aviary, though not often. 

In September, 1888, I purchased my first captive Pied Wagtail from a bird- 
catcher. It was decidedly a domineering bird, and was long before it became 
tame, knocking out all its tail-feathers in the first few months of its confinement 
in a large aviar}^ nor did it recover them until the following July : it lived 
about eighteen months, after it had starved my hen Grey Wagtail to death by 
incessantly driving it from the soft food. 

In June or July, 1892, a nest of six of these birds was shown to me in a 
field a short distance from my house; the site for the nest was rather curious: a 


i8o The Pied Wagtail. 

number of boards had been piled up near a fence by the builder who owned the 
ground, and when he wished to utilize them he discovered the nest built below 
one which had been tilted up. I examined the nest and found that the young 
were just ready to take, but hesitated to secure them, as my holiday was almost at 
an end, and the duty of feeding would devolve upon my wife. I, therefore, crossed 
the field and with a field-glass watched the parents arriving incessantly with food 
for about an hour : they appeared to have an unusual amount of white on the neck, 
and I took them at first for White Wagtails, but the young were certainl}' Pied. 

My wife having undertaken the duty of feeding during the day, I sent my 
man for the nest in the evening, but it was empty, and a cat was seen slinking 
away. Next morning, however, one young one shivering with cold and wheezing 
badly, was discovered behind a board : under careful treatment it soon recovered, 
and was reared without trouble upon crushed tea-biscuit, preserved yolk of egg, 
ants' cocoons, and Abrahams' food for Insectivorous birds, mixed together and 
moistened. We found this little Wagtail a ver}^ interesting pet : in the 
summer we let him fly about the dining-room, where he delighted in playing the 
game of hide-and-seek, keeping quite still until discovered, when he excitedly 
shouted chizzic, chizzic, and ran out from his retreat : he was absolutely tame, fighting 
with us after the manner of a Canary. When tired of flying about he always 
returned to his cage of his own accord and jumped iip to his perch. 

As a rule, and especially during the winter months, when we were afraid to let 
" Chizzic " out, on account of fires, his cage was kept in my conservator}' ; and, if 
ni}' wife went out there without stopping to have a fight, he shouted to her in a 
most reproving tone : his excitement when she poked her finger through the bars 
was ludicrous, he screamed with excitement and (although it is difficult to imagine 
how a bird-face can be made to express glee) he undoubtedly appeared to laugh 
much as one sees a dog do when plajnng. He was always read}- to fight me, but 
never showed the same madcap hilarity as with my wife. On several occasions 
when my servant plaj'ed with him, he half spread his wings, arched his back, 
depressed his tail, and sang the true wild song to her: sometimes in the 
.spring he sang from his perdi, but not often.* 

All insectivorous birds make more or less interesting pets when hand-reared ; 
but uoue are so satisfactor}' as the Wagtails (doubtless the other species would be 
quite as pleasing as the Pied) ; even when caught wild, most examples of i\lotaci//a 
soon become tame if kindly treated: they are easy to feed, living for years upon 
crumbled hou.sehold bread, yolk of egg and ants' cocoons, moistened (either by the 

• Since I described liiiii, little "Chizzic" has passed awav : eveu to the last he tried to bear 
up. niakini; an cfTort to ]ilay at lij^litiiit; wlu'ii so weak that lie staj^nercd wildly in his walk. 




The White Wagtail. i8i 

addition of a little water or mashed potato) and a few insects, tlieir larvae, or 
spiders from time to time. But, unless hand-reared neither the Pied-, nor any 
other Wagtail, should be kept in a cage; and certainly, when possible, the liberty 
of a room should be allowed for a short time each day to a caged specimen ; even 
then, at its autumn moult the pet cage bird fails to cast the scales on the tarsi, 
which yearl}^ pile up on the front of its feet and much disfigure it. 

Family -MO TA CILLID.F. 

The White Wagtail. 

Motacilla alba, LlNX- 

DISTRIBUTED over the whole of Europe and breeding as far north as land 
extends : it is also believed to breed in Egypt, and it certainly does so 
in the Highlands of Palestine, Asia Minor and Persia, to which countries 
it is also a winter visitor. In the autumn the European birds travel southwards, 
wintering in Southern Europe, North Africa, southward to Senegal and eastward 
to Zanzibar. It is also said sometimes to visit the Canaries. 

Mr. Bond first recognized this as a British bird in 1841, since when it has 
occurred more or less commonly in Cornwall, Devonshire, the Isle of Wight, 
Kent, Middlesex, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, 
Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland and Northumberland. In 
Scotland it has been seen as far north as Inverness and even in Shetland ; it has 
also occurred on the island of Lewis after rough weather. From Ireland only one 
authenticated specimen is recorded. 

The White Wagtail in general appearance, habits, and nidification, nearly 
resembles the Pied species, but differs in the grey colouring of its back and lesser 

1 82 The White Wagtail. 

wing-coverts ; the white on the cheeks and sides of neck extended, so as completely 
to disunite the black of the crown and nape from that of the throat and breast ; 
the tail also is said to be longer, but this is certainly a variable character. The 
female is rather duller than the male, and generally has the throat nearly white, 
but sometimes with darkish brown feathers, especially at the sides ; she also shows 
no black on the nape and back, as in the Pied Wagtail. 

It is evident that the White Wagtail is not aware of the importance of the 
above distinctions, inasmuch as there are certainly two instances known of its 
pairing with the Pied species in a wild state, one of these being represented by 
the nest exhibited with old birds and young at the Natural Histor}' Museum, 
obtained in Norfolk b}' Lord Walsingham. 

Mr. Frohawk and I saw a fine example of this species in Kent, but we failed 
to secure the specimen : it would have been ver_v useful for the present work. 

Several instances are on record of the "Water Wagtail" (which might mean 
either the Pied or the White Wagtail) making its nest under a railway truck, 
between the axle-box and axle-guard. In one such instance (described in the 
"Zoologist" for January, 1893, p. 30) the nest was discovered in November with 
"two eggs, one quite warm, having been recently laid." It does not, however, 
follow that, because a bird continues to roost on a nest containing unhatched 
eggs, the latter are necessarily recently deposited. I have known man}^ birds in 
captivity to retire to their old nests when they have felt unwell, or in cold 
weather, and it is quite likely that they also do the same when at libert)'. 







The Grey Wagtail. 183 

Family— MO TA CILL ID^. 

The Grey Wagtail. 

Motacilla iiulanope, Pall. 

HOWARD SAUNDERS gives the following as the distribution of this 
species outside Britain :— " On the Continent the Grey Wagtail barely 
reaches the extreme south of Sweden, and is very rare in Northern 
Germany, while in Russia it is hardly found beyond the latitude of Moscow ; but 
in the mountainous and even rolling ground of the central and southern parts of 
Europe it is fairly common ; breeding as far south as the basin of the Mediter- 
ranean, where it is a resident, as it is also in the Canaries, Madeira, and the 
Azores. Eastward, it is found in summer across Asia, south of about 67° N. lat., 
to Persia, Turkestan, the Himalayas, Northern China, and Japan ; wintering in 
India, Burma, the Indo-Malayan Islands, Palestine, and Northern Africa." 

In Great Britain the Grey Wagtail is resident, breeding chiefly in the 
mountainous districts, though occasionally in the plains : it is somewhat local in 
England, Wales, and Ireland, being more frequently seen in the south of England 
during the winter than the summer months. 

In breeding plumage the male of this exceedingly graceful bird is chiefly 
slaty-grey above, the head slightly darker; but the rump aud upper tail-coverts 
are greenish-3'ellow ; the wing coverts brownish-black with pale margins ; flights 
blackish-brown ; the secondaries margined with huffish- white ; the three outermost 
tail feathers white ; the second and third pairs with a great part of the outer web 
brownish-black ; the six central feathers brownish-black edged with greenish-yellow ; 
a narrow arched white superciliary stripe ; a second white stripe from the base of 
the lower mandible to the neck, bordering a black gorget which covers the throat 
and breast ; remainder of under surface bright sulphur-j-ellow ; bill black ; feet 
brown ; iris dark-brown. The female is slightly smaller than the male, has a 
shorter tail, duller colouring, and little or no black on the throat. After the 
autumn moult the black disappears entirely, the throat becoming white and the 
breast tinted with sandy-buff. Birds of the year are like adults in winter plumage, 


1 84 The Gkev Wagtail. 

excepting that the}' are browner above, with the snperciliar}' stripe and under 
surface washed with buff. 

The Grey Wagtail is especially fond of the vicinity of water, haunting 
niouutain streams, rushing rivers, and tumbliug torrents : such localities as the 
Dipper delights in, form the chosen home of this most elegant of all the Motacillidce. 
But it is not only seen in the wilder regions, even during the breeding season ; 
for a few pairs remain to bring up a family even in the most level and prosaic 
parts of the southern counties ; and, in the autumn aud winter months, it not 
uucommonl}' becomes a prize of the bird-catchers of Kent and Surrey, who \)y no 
means regard it as an}' great capture, but willingl}- part with it at prices var3'ing 
from nincpence to eighteen pence according to the purchaser. 

Early in the j^ear of 1896, our postman informed me that a foreign bird 
had flown into his house, and asked if I had lost one. I replied in the 
negative and asked for information as to its form, colouring, etc. Finally he 
fetched it to show me, and I at once recognized it as a male Grey Wagtail just 
commencing its change of plumage : the man had been trying to feed it on 
Canary-seed, and when he discovered that it would need special soft food and 
insects, he willingly gave it to me. 

The Grey Wagtail, in its actions, flight, song, and expressive notes, much 
resembles the other forms ; but it is more solitary than either tlie Pied or Yellow 
Wagtails ; each pair appearing to occupy an area apart from others of its own 
species ; whereas one may see three or four pairs of either the Pied or Yellow 
Wagtails within the limits of a comparativel}' small area during the breeding- 
season. In the Autumn only does the Grey Wagtail appear to be more sociable, 
because the 3'oung usually accompany their parents until winter is well advanced. 

The Gre}'' Wagtail is double-brooded, usuall}^ commencing its first nest in 
April, Seebohm says "towards the end of April or early in May," Howard Saunders 
says "in the latter half of April in England, but earlier in the south of Europe," 
whilst an observant Scot, John Craig, in a letter to the " Feathered World " (May 
8th, 1896), insists upon it that in North Ayrshire it "begins to lay in the first 
week of April " ! Speaking of it in the Parnassus, Seebohm observes " I obtained 
several nests of fresh-laid eggs in the middle and end of May ; but these appeared 
to be second broods, as I shot several young birds of the j^ear." 

As a rule this bird selects a rock}' bank, a hole in the wall of an old water- 
mill, or a crevice in a bank, under an overhanging ledge aud well concealed by 
rank herbage ; but there is no rule without exceptions, for Seebohm says be once 
" saw one built in tlic fork of three stems of an alder, close to the ground, almost 
overlapping tlie river"; whilst I took a nest in Kent (from which we flushed the 

The Grey Wagtail. 185 

female bird) built in a furrow of a ploughed field near the creek at Kemsley, close 
to Sheppey.* This nest is constructed of root fibre, interwoven with coarse dry 
grass, cow-, and horse-hair ; the lining being ver}^ thick, and formed of black 
horse-hair, white cow-hair, and wool. The usual materials, according to Seebohm, 
are fine roots, with a few stalks of dry grass in the outer and coarser portions, 
and a lining of cow-hair, the preference being given to white ; Howard Saunders 
adds moss to the outer walls, and does not specify the nature or colour of the 
hair-lining; Lord Lilford says that it "much resembles that of tlie Pied Wagtail, 
but is considerably smaller " : other authorities mention feathers as forming 
part of the lining, but Wagtails are not much addicted to the use of such 

The eggs, according to several authorities, are smaller than those of the 
Yellow Wagtail ; although the Grey Wagtail is by far the larger bird : in my nest, 
however, the eggs were fully as large as the largest eggs of tlie Pied Wagtail, 
and in ni}' opinion Lord Lilford's description is most likely to be accurate ; at any 
rate it exactly accords with my solitary experience : — " The eggs are usually five 
in number, of a creamy white, closely blotched or clouded with pale yellowish- 
brown, and may be distinguished from those of the commoner Yellow Wagtail 
{Motacilla 7'aii) by their larger size and the absence of the hair-like dark streaks 
which in most cases are found on the eggs of the latter bird." Unless a man 
not only takes the nest himself, but actually sees the parent bird leave it, the 
nest alone is not sufi&cieut evidence on which to identify the eggs of one of these 
yellow species of Wagtail ; yet there is no doubt that, in many cases, their iden- 
tification rests upon no better basis than the assertions of rustics, who almost 
invariably confound the Grey Wagtail with the Yellow. 

The food of the Grey Wagtail consists largely of insects, their larvse, centi- 
pedes, spiders, and small mollusca ; but in winter the last-mentioned, small worms, 
and a few seeds of weeds are eaten. 

My first experience of this charming bird in captivity, was in September, 
1888, when a friend netted two females and gave them to me ; I turned them, at 
first, into a large cage, but one of them refused to eat, and died the following 
day : the other bird I transferred to a large aviary, where, in three days, it became 
so tame that it not only took mealworms from my fingers, but ran between my 
feet as I stood in the aviary ; moreover within a year it followed me about ; and 
whenever I passed by the aviary, it flew up to the wire and called me. Unhappily 
I turned in a cock Pied Wagtail with it, and the latter bird so persecuted the 

* This uest was first observed liy the plon;,'h-boy whilst guiding his horses, and knowing that I was 
collecting nests and eggs he carefully avoided it, so that it lay on the side of the furrow, a clod of earth 
partly protecting it. 

1 86 The Blue-Headed Wagtail. 

poor tiling (invariably chasing it away from the food pan when it attempted to 
eat) that, early in December, 1889, it died of starvation. 

Several years later (1892) Mr. Staines, of Penge, formerly a rather successful 
exhibitor of Wagtails, gave me a male of this species which had been for some 
time in his possession ; I turned it out into a cool aviary, where it came into 
superb plumage, and soon became very tame ; though less so than ni}- first (female) 
example : this and a second male, previously referred to, were still flourishing when 
I wrote this article, but Mr. Staines' bird subsequently died (August 1896). 

Family— MO TA CILLID^. 

The Blue-Headed Wagtail. 

MotaciUii flava, LiNN. 

SEEBOHM gives the following as the geographical distribution of this species: 
"extending from the British Islands across Europe and Asia at least as far 
as the Rocky Mountains of America. It is common across the Cliannel, and is 
found in Scandinavia south of lat. 60°, which appears also to be the northern limit 
of its range in Russia. In Western Europe it is found down to Gibraltar, and 
crosses the Straits into Tangiers ; but in Eastern Europe it does not breed so far 
south. It passes through South Russia, Greece, and North-east Africa on migra- 
tion, and winters in South Africa, whence it has been received from Daniara Land, 
Natal, and the Transvaal. In Asia it is said to have about the same range to the 
north, but in Alaska it breeds up to lat. 64". It breeds throughout South Siberia, 
Mongolia, and North China, wintering in India and Burma. In Turkestan it is 
only known on migration. It is doubtful whether it has occurred in Persia, but it 
breeds in the Caucasus." 

In the British Islands the Blue-headed Wagtail has chiefly occurred in the 


Blue-Headed Wagtail 

Plate 50 

The Blue-Headed Wagtail. 187 

southern, south-western, and eastern counties during the breeding-season, nests 
having been recorded from Kent and Durham ; it has occurred a few times in 
Scotland and Ireland, and has been seen in Shetland in the Autumn. 

The adult male in breeding plumage has the forehead, crown, and nape bluish- 
grey ; back 3'ellowish-olive, browner on the upper tail coverts ; wing-coverts dark 
brown, tipped with j-ellowish-white ; flights dark-brown ; secondaries with yellowish- 
white margins ; tail feathers, excepting the two outer pairs, blackish-brown ; the 
outer ones white, their inner webs edged with black ; lores and ear-coverts deep 
slate-grey ; a white superciliary streak, and a second white streak below the lores ; 
chin white ; remainder of under surface bright canary-yellow ; bill and feet black ; 
iris hazel. The female is duller in colouring, and the head is more olivaceous. 
Young birds have the breast spotted with brown, and otherwise closel}' resemble 
the female. The white eye-stripe is always present at all ages in both sexes. 

I met with this species in life about the end of May, or beginning of June, 
1883, when I saw it in company with the Yellow Wagtail in an old deserted 
brickfield at Murston, near Sittingbourne ; it was running along the margins of 
the reedy pools (produced by the removal of the brick-earth and the subsequent 
winter rains), flying up from time to time with a shrill cry which resembled that 
of its Yellow congener, a sort of scizzur to my ear, though it has usually been 
rendered chit-up by writers on British Birds. 

Two years later Mr. William Drake, of Kemsley, near Sheppey, sent me a 
nest found by one of his boys among the long wiry grass on the saltings near 
the creek, informing me that it was the nest of a Yellow Wagtail, as the boy had 
seen the birds, which he described as having a "black head with white ring," 
evidently referring to the superciliary and subloral white streaks, the head probably 
appearing, at a short distance, to be blackish in contrast with the yellowish colouring 
of the back : the eggs (six in number) are for the most part almost indistinguish- 
able from those of the common Yellow Wagtail, but one or two are distinctly 
mottled, and correspond exactly with authentic eggs of the Blue-headed species in 
my possession. 

In his "Birds of Norfolk" Stevenson mentions the occurrence of this species 
at Sherringham, Yarmouth, and the Heigham river : he also records the fact of its 
having been shot on more than one occasion at Lowestoft (Suffolk) and at Stoke 
Nayland. Although only a visitor to our islands on migration, this species is 
probably a tolerably regular one ; moreover, the fact that it undoubtedly breeds 
with us, fully entitles it to be regarded as a British species. Herr Gatke observes : 
" As one might expect, it also visits Heligoland in very large numbers during 
both migration periods — though naturally its numbers are incomparably larger in 

i88 The Blup:-Headed Wagtail. 

autumn than in spring ; but even during the latter season, if the weather is toler- 
ably favourable, flocks of hundreds may be seen covering the sheep pastures." 

W. Warde Fowler, in his "Summer Studies of Birds and Books" saj's: — "A 
few of these seem to come to us every year ; and just as it is worth while always 
to look at Pied Wagtails to make sure that the}^ are not White Wagtails, so it is 
as well to glance at all yellow birds we see, in case we should some day meet 
w-ith one that has a distinctly bluish head, and a white stripe over the eye instead 
of a yellow one. A beginner, indeed, may easily confuse the female of the common 
species for the rarity he is looking out for ; and he should never be satisfied until 
he has watched his bird at a very short distance, and if possible with a good field- 
glass.* Though Oxford is a favourite haunt of Yellow Wagtails, I have in the 
course of many years detected but two or three of the rarer species." 

Charles Dixon says that he met with the Blue-headed Wagtail in Algeria "in 
flocks in the oases, apparently on migration, in Ma}-." (Birds of Algeria, p. 65). 
Occurring there so late in the year, one would almost expect that a few pairs 
would breed there, as the}' are known to do in North-eastern Africa (cf. Seebohm, 
Hist. British Birds, Vol. II, p. 209.) 

Nidification takes place with this species between the middle of May and the 
first week of June ; the nest being placed on the ground amongst coarse herbage, 
frequently under a tuft of grass in meadows or cornfields, sometimes in the bank 
of a dry ditch : it is somewhat loosely constructed of fine rootlets, grass, straws, 
and bents, sometimes with an admixture of moss ; and is lined with horse-hair, 
wool, or fine bents ; occasionally with wool and a few downy feathers. The eggs 
number from four to six, and are either pale yellowish brown, with a fine black 
streak on the larger end, or yellowish white, mottled and clouded with pale browTi, 
both types with intermediate grades sometimes occurring in the same clutch. 

The food of this Wagtail consists of insects and their larvae, spiders, centipedes, 
and small freshwater niollusca : but in confinement it would doubtless feed on the 
usual soft food, like all its congeners, and would make a most desirable and 
interesting addition to an aviar}'. 

• RxceptiiiK when collecting ucsts av.d ejJKS in ilense woods, where il was often necessary to force my way 
through liranible an<l hawthorn. I usually carried a ]iowerful little x'ass in my pocket: this eiialiled me, not 
only to rccojjiiize s|icci'.s, hut to watch the birds to their nests. — A G. b. 







The Ykllow Wagtail. 
Family— MO TA CILLID^. 

The Yellow Wagtail. 

Molacilla raii, BONAP. 

ACCORDING to Seebohru, this species " breeds in the north of France, passes 
through the south of France, Spain, and Portugal on migration, and 
occasionally strays into North-west Italy, in all of which districts it is 
possible that a few remain to breed. In Africa it has been found in winter as far 
south as the Transvaal on the east coast, and has occurred in Gambia, the Gold 
Coast, and the Gaboon on the west. An isolated colony appears to exist in South- 
east Rxissia and West Turkestan." 

To Great Britain the Yellow Wagtail is a summer migrant, being generally 
distributed in England, excepting in Cornwall and Devon, where it is, however, 
seen on migration. In Scotland it is far more local, being most common in the 
southern counties, nevertheless it has perhaps been met with in Sutherlandshire, 
and is believed to breed in Inverness and Aberdeen ; its occurrence in Orkney 
and the Shetlands has been reported, but the statements need verification. In 
Ireland it is not only verj^ local but rare, though it is known to breed near 
Dublin and at Lough Neagh. 

The male in breeding plumage has the upper parts for the most part of a 
bright yellowish-green colour, forehead more yellow, and upper tail-coverts slightly 
more olive : wing-coverts and flights smoky-brown, tipped and edged with pale 
buff; tail blackish, the two outer feathers on each side white, with black edging 
to the inner webs ; a sulphur-yellow streak over the eye and ear-coverts ; the latter 
and the lores yellowish-olive ; under parts bright canary-yellow ; bill and feet 
black ; iris hazel. The female is browner above and paler below, and the super- 
ciliary stripe is yellowish-white. After the autumn moult both sexes become duller 
and less yellow. Birds of the year are slightly browner than the female on the 
tipper parts ; the throat pale yellowish-buff, becoming browner on the breast ; 
abdomen pale yellow ; the sides of the neck and breast more or less streaked or 
spotted with brown. 

This species reaches our shores early in March, arriving in Scotland about 

I go The Yellow Wagtail. 

the beginning of April : the return migration taking place in September and 

The fondness of this Wagtail and its Bine-headed relative for the pastures in 
which cattle are grazing is well-known, the attraction being the flies which collect 
round and torment these animals. They also follow the plough and feed upon 
the wireworms and other beetle-larvae which are turned up in the furrows ; also in 
the fields, in which spring sowing is being carried on, the}^ doubtless find many- 
small worms and spiders. Like all the Wagtails they are fond of bathing, and 
consequently are frequently met with near streams and dykes ; or in deserted 
brickfields, where the winter rains have formed pools, surrounded by coarse grass 
and nettles. 

W. Warde Fowler, in his "Summer Studies," p.p. 109-10 has the following 
interesting account of a large assemblage of this pretty species : — " These most 
charming birds come to Oxford about the middle of April. They come up the 
river, and gather in great numbers on that vast meadow above the city known as 
Port Meadow ; which almost deserves a chapter to itself, so interesting is its 
history, so rich its treasures of birds and plants, and so various its aspect in flood 
and frost, under sunshine and shower. Here, on the 26th of April, 1887, I saw 
a more wonderful gathering of Yellow Wagtails than I have ever seen since, or 
am ever likely to see again. Mr. Arthur Macpherson had come into my rooms 
the evening before, to tell me that he had seen some Dunlins on the bank of the 
Isis, where it bounds this great meadow to the west. As these birds of the sea- 
shore had never before been reported to me, I started the next afternoon, hindered 
and baffled by a strong and bitter wind which soon turned to pelting rain, and by 
a toothache which raged in sympathy with the elements ; but I was rewarded for 
my pains. I found the Dunlins ; but I found also what was far more wonderful 
and beautiful — the whole length of the river's bank, on the meadow side of it, 
occupied by countless Yellow Wagtails. As I walked along they got up literallj' 
from under my feet; for they were sheltering just beneath the meadow's lip, and 
I came upon them quite unawares. When a turn in the bank gave me a view 
ahead, I could see the turf spotted all over with the brilliant yellow of their 
breasts ; for I was walking with the wind, and they, of course, were facing it, to 
avoid having their plumage uncomfortabl}' handled by the gusts. 

They were not afraid of me, and settled down again directl}- I had passed on, 
so that my progress was like that of a haymaking machine, which just lifts the 
hay as it passes, and then lets it settle down again after dallying a moment with 
the breeze. These birds had clearly only just arrived after their long journey from 
Africa, and I think they must have come together and unpaired ; the greater 

The Yellow Wagtail. 191 

number of them were males. Their numbers diminished regularly day by day, 
and at the same time I began to see pairs in their usual places in the neighbour- 
hood evidently preparing to nest. In a few days they were nearly all distributed 
over the countr3'-side." 

The site chosen for the nest is frequently a furrow or depression in the earth 
in a pasture or cornfield, partly concealed by coarse herbage or a dislodged grassy 
clod, sometimes in the side of a deep pit partly filled with water aud overgrown 
with rank grass and nettles, or in a sloping bank covered with weeds and wild 
flowers, or again among the long coarse grass at the foot of a wall. It is by no 
means an easy nest to find, for it never seems to be exposed like that of the Pied 
Wagtail, and therefore is more ofteu discovered by accident than by design : that 
is to say, when carefully searching every foot of ground with a view to securing 
a possible nest of Sky-Lark or Tree- Pipit, one maystumble upon that of the Yellow 
Wagtail. The nest is constructed of coarse dry grasses and rootlets, lined with 
finer rootlets, fine bents, black aud white hair, or sometimes with green moss, 
rabbits' down, or sheep's wool : feathers are said to be occasionally used.* The 
eggs number from five to six, and usually closely resemble those of the Sedge- 
Warbler, excepting that they are larger ; the paler varieties are greyish-white more 
or less densely mottled with pale clay-colour ; but more often this mottling spreads 
uniformly over the whole surface, rendering the shell uniformly pale stone-brown, 
(like some eggs of the Partridge) there are usually one or two short black hair- 
lines at the larger end. 

The call-note is a soft monosyllabic whistle, and the note of excitement a 
shrill scizziir : the song, which is rarely heard, somewhat resembles that of the 

My first experience of this species in confinement was a short one. In the 
winter of 1889-90, a bird-catcher brought me a specimen which he had carried 
about in a cage with linnets and other birds all day; no water being supplied and 
only seed being available for food : the poor thing was so exhausted that it died 
the following morning. My second bird was given to me in 1894, by Mr. Staines, 
of Peuge, who had already had it in a room for some time. I turned it out into 
a cool aviary with my Grey Wagtail, where it spent the winter without mishap, 
though the temperature on one or two occasions registered twelve degrees of frost: 
in the spring it came into grand colour, and then began to persecute its Grey 
relative, so that eventually I had to place it in a large flight-cage : this I suppose 
it resented, for (shortly after I had acquired what I then supposed to be a hen) 
in the autumn of 1895 it died. My third bird I purchased from a bird-catcher, 

* I have not, however, met with this material in the liuing. — A. G. B. 


192 The Yellow Wagtail. 

and turned it out at once into the aviary with the Grey Wagtail, and insectivorous 
bird though it is, it no sooner saw the latter eating the soft food than it followed 
the good example and saved me all anxiet3^ In the spring of 1896, I was aston- 
ished and pleased to see this bird gradually' develop the brightest male plumage 
which I have ever noticed in the Yellow Wagtail : indeed a reputed Canar3--breeder 
who came to see my birds, after looking at the brilliant tropical colouring of 
Weavers and Cardinals with lack-lustre eye, suddenly became eloquent as he came 
in sight of my Yellow Wagtail, exclaiming excitedlj' — " O ! I should like to have 
that Canary ! '' He cannot have known much about his favourites ; perhaps he 
mistook the Wagtail for an extra fine Scotch-fancy bird. 

In a wild state the Yellow Wagtail feeds upon insects and their larvae, spiders, 
centipedes, and small worms : in confinement it requires a few insects, cockroaches 
answering the purpose as well as anything ; but as staple diet, the same food as 
that given to all insectivorous birds answers admirably : it nsuall}' commences on 
the yolk of egg and ants' cocoons, onh' eating the bread and potato, as a last 
resource, when other ingredients fail. 

Mr. Septimus Perkins, in "The Avicultural Magazine," Vol. I, p. 126, 
published some interesting notes on this species: — "Some few years ago, while 
living in the Midlands, I possessed a fair-sized in-door aviar}-, in which I kept 
a good many migrator}- British birds. Here I kept the Yellow Wagtail along 
with the smallest and most delicate Warblers, and I never found that he 
did them the slightest injury, although he was sometimes just a little t3Tannical. 
But two male Wagtails, whether of the same or different species, will quarrel 
and fight. 

This bird is a somewhat large eater, and takes verj' kindl}- to hard-boiled 
egg, though he likes Abrahams' Preserved Egg even better, because that is all 
yolk. He should have as much egg as he will eat, and as many soaked ants' eggs 
as he will eat. Also three or four mealworms a da}-, and as many flies and small 
caterpillars as you can take the trouble to catch. 

The Yellow Wagtail is a tender bird, but 1 do not consider him nearly so 
delicate as the Warblers, he eats more heartily of artificial food than they do, and 
consequently does not require so many mealworms." 

Mr. Perkins then goes on to recommend that soaked ants' eggs should form 
the staple article of diet: also that the egg should be given in a separate vessel, 
not mixed with bread-crumbs, which he considers indigestible and not nourishing 
for insectivorous birds. I must confess that mj' experience does not support this 
view ; for not only do many insectivorous birds live largely, during the autumn 
and winter months, upon seed and grain ; but they become sleek and fat upon 















The Tree-Pipit. 193 

this diet. Soaked ants' eggs soon become sour, especially in hot weather ; and 
I find that when dr}' or onl}' slightly damped, birds eat them just as readily. The 
opinion of Mr. Abrahams, based upon the experience of a lifetime, was also weighty; 
and he recommended that his food for insectivorous birds should be mixed with 
double the quantity of bread-crumbs. 

In my opinion none of the Wagtails are delicate ; but if the birds are overfed, 
they are far more liable to disease than when fed moderately. It must always be 
borne in miud, that birds in cage or aviar}^ do not have to seek their food ; there- 
fore their tendency is to eat more than is good for them. 

Family— MO TA CILLID^. 

The Trek-Pipit. 

A)itIii(S trivialis, LiNN. 

THIS species breeds in Northern and Central Europe from Tromso in Norway 
south-westwards to the British Isles, the Pyrenees, and the mountains of 
northen Italy, and south-eastwards as far as the Crimea, to the north-east 
from the valle}' of the Petchora, the Ural Mountains, and the valley of the Yenesay 
in Siberia, also through Turkestan to the Altai Mountains. South of the Pyrenees 
and Northern Italy the Tree- Pipit is met with on migration and in Avinter, as also 
in Morocco and Algeria in N.W. Africa, eastward to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia. 
It has even been said to occur as far to the south as Caffraria. 

lu Great Britain this bird only occurs as a summer visitor, being pretty 
generally distributed and common in England, with the exception of western 
Cornwall aud Wales, where it is scarce ; in Scotland it is rarer and far more local, 
with the exception of the neighbourhood of Glasgow where it is abundant. It has 
not been met with in Ireland, according to Howard Saunders ; but Mr. C. W. 
Benson (in the "Zoologist" for 1878, p. 348) mentions the occurrence of a pair in 

194 The Tree-Pipit. 

Dublin, and Mr. H. C. Hart states that he found a nest thirteen years previousl}' 
in the same count}^* 

The upper surface of this species in breeding phimage is clear sandj'-brown, 
with dark centres to the feathers, less prominent on the rump ; wings dark-brown, 
the coverts and secondaries with paler margins ; tail for the most part dark-brown, 
but the outermost feathers white, with a brown stripe on the inner web, and the 
next feather on each side broadly tipped with white ; a buff superciliary stripe ; 
chin and bell}- whitish, remainder of under surface buff; a dark streak from the 
base of the bill to the sides of the neck, where there are other dark-brown streaks 
and spots, as also at the sides of the breast and flanks : bill brown, the base of 
lower mandible paler; feet flesh-colour; iris hazel. The female is slightly smaller, 
and has less defined breast spots than the male. After the autumn moult the buff" 
of the under surface is more pronounced. Birds of the j'ear are more spotted ou 
the breast and flanks, but these markings are smaller than in adult birds. 

The shorter and more curved hind claw, larger size, somewhat longer tail, 
warmer colouring, and paler legs, distinguish this bird from the Meadow-Pipit. 

This species usuall}' makes its appearance in England earl}- in April, though 
sometimes not before the third week, and in the south of Scotland early in May : 
its favourite haunts are pastures on the outskirts of plantations, shrubberies inter- 
spersed with large trees, or woods ; also large gardens, parks, tall hedgerows, but 
more especiall}^ uneven hedges, with here and there a tall tree : here one can best 
observe its curious caricature of the Sky-Lark's upward flight, rising perpendicularly 
for a short distance and thence, with expanded wings and tails, dropping spirall}-, 
singing the while. 

In his "Evolution of Bird-song," p. ii8, the late Mr. Charles A. Witchell thus 
renders the song of the Tree-Pipit : — " Chee chee chce chee eechaw ecchaw whee whee whce 
ivhce whee whee : or ecchaw ecchaw chce chee chee chee judge judge judge Judge whee ivhcc whce 
whcc, and so on." On p. 119 also, he mentions that the final notes of its early 
spring song and those of the Skj'-Lark are alike, and "consist of a somewhat plain- 
tive, prolonged, and repeated whistle, descending in pitch during its utterance." 
The late Mr. Witchell had not onh- studied the songs of our birds very carefully 
for some time, but had a musical education, which speciall}- fitted him for his 
task ; therefore I consider it far better to quote his version of a song, written down 
whilst the bird was singing, than to trust my own memor_v of it.t 

As its name implies, this species frequentlj' perches on trees, but it always 

• cf Seeljohin's liritisli liirils, Vol. II, p. 219 

t The call-note is saiii lo resemble that of the Greeufiiich, and the alarm-uote to be a sharp tick, lick, 
frequently rejealeii. 

The Tree-Pipit. 195 

nests upon the ground, frequently in the side of a sloping bank on the margin of 
a wood or shaw, or near the foot of a hedge b}' the roadside ; sometimes far away 
in the centre of a grass meadow, or cornfield ; sometimes on a railway bank : 
usually the nest is tolerably well concealed, but one which I took from a roadside 
bank not far from a large wood, was so conspicuously situated that, although it 
only contained three eggs, I did not dare to leave it until the clutch was complete; 
but pa3'ing a second visit to the same road a few days later I found a fourth egg 
deposited in the cavity whence I had removed the nest. 

The nest itself is formed of dry grass and bents mixed with moss, the 
materials somewhat finer towards the inside ; and lined with a few black horsehairs, 
as in some nests of the Greater Whitethroat : but occasionall}^ a few rootlets are 
introduced into the walls, and sometimes the entire structure is made of dry 
grasses; though all the nests which I have found have been fairly tj-pical. The 
eggs var}' from four to six in number, five being the more frequent clutch : in 
colouring they differ individually as much as any eggs that are laid, and may 
roughly be distinguished as — i. Greenish-white, spotted and heavily blotched at 
the larger end with blackish-brown and lavender; 2. Buff- whitish, densely mottled 
and spotted all over with olive-brown; 3. Pinky-buff, densely mottled and spotted 
all over with deep terra-cotta, with one or two black hair-lines or Bunting-marks 
at the larger end ; 4. Ruddy-brown inclining to chocolate, with scarcely perceptible 
darker reticulations, and black Bunting-marks at the larger end : every gradation 
may be found between these four types ; but, in my experience the intergrades 
between the olive and ruddy mottled types are the commonest. 

As nests ma}^ occasionally be met with from May to August, it is very probable 
that two broods are sometimes reared ; but it is believed that this is by no means 
the rule ; because the young, after leaving the nest, remain for a considerable 
time in their parents' company. 

The action of this and all the Pipits is ver}^ like that of the Wagtails, as they 
run upon the earth, their tails spring up and down in the same manner ; but in 
their food they more nearly approach the Larks inasmuch as they not only eat 
insects and their larvse, spiders, centipedes, and small worms, but also a good deal 
of seed, more especially of cereals : in aviaries the}- often husk and swallow their 
share of canary-seed. Whether the Tree-Pipit is as combative in confinement as 
his relative the Tit- Lark I do not know, because I have had no personal experience 
of the present species as an aviary pet ; but, from what I know of the Meadow 
Pipit, I should recommend that only one example be admitted into a mixed aviary, 
otherwise I suspect that there would be war to the death. 

Lord Lilford, speaking of this bird in Northamptonshire, says : — " It arrives 


196 The Meadow-Pipit. 

with us generally in the second or third week of April, and the male bird soon 
makes his presence known by his loud song, which has some resemblance to both 
that of the Canary and the Sky-Lark ; he also attracts attention b}' his common 
habit of soaring from a tree to a moderate height, and descending slowly, singing 
his best, with tail outspread and legs hanging, to the perch from which he started 
or another close by it, without coming to the ground : this habit has, in some 
places, gained him the name of "Wood-Lark"; but I need hardly say that the true 
Wood-Lark (Alauda arboreaj is a very distinct bird, which differs from the present 
species in many essential particulars, and whose song is in ever}' waj' far superior 
to that of the Tree-Pipit." 

This note of Lord Lilford's is of considerable interest, as I am satisfied that 
in many parts of England, the Tree- Pipit is confounded with the Wood-Lark ; though 
more particularly by people born and bred in the countr}' ; the most difficult of 
all to convince of their errors. 

Gatke says that the Tree-Pipit is one of the few birds \\hich have attempted 
to breed in Heligoland ; " unfortunately the attempt was unsuccessful, for the nest 
with four eggs of the type with brown spots like burnt marks, was destroyed by 
cats ; it had been placed against a large tuft of grass in the middle of a large 
hedged-in grass-plot, about a hundred paces in diameter, which adjoins my garden, 
and was protected against every possible disturbance by human hand." 

Family MO TA CIL L 11). n 

The Meadow-Pipit. 

Anthus praknsis, LiNN. 

ACCORDING to Howard Saunders the breeding range of this, the smallest 
of our Pipits, "extends from the North Cape over the greater part of 
Europe to the Pyrenees, the northern portions of Italy and the Carpathians, 





¥ ^ \N 







The Meadow-Pipit. 197 

and perhaps to some of the elevated regions still further sonth ; but in the basin 
of the Mediterranean the bird is principally known as a visitor on migration and 
in winter. Eastward, it is found in Asia Minor, Palestine, Western Turkestan, 
and the valley of the Ob in Siberia ; while its southern wanderings reach North 
Africa, from Morocco to Egypt." 

Throughout Great Britain the Meadow-Pipit, otherwise known as Tit-Lark, 
Titling, Moss-cheeper, Ling-bird, etc., is resident, common, and generally distributed: 
in the autumn the numbers of resident birds are temporarily largely added to, by 
immense flocks travelling southwards, and it is probable that many of the native 
specimens join these migrating hordes which leave ovir coasts and are seen no 
more until the following March : nevertheless great numbers remain with us 
during the winter. 

The adult male of this species is olive-brown above, the feathers having dark 
centres, which, however, are less distinctly marked on the rump and upper tail- 
coverts ; wings dark brown, the primaries with j-ellowish margins to the outer 
webs ; the coverts and secondaries with whitish margins ; tail dark-brown, the 
outermost pair of feathers nearly half white, and the next pair with a white sub- 
terminal spot ; a narrow dull-white superciliary stripe ; under surface almost white, 
the sides of neck, breast, and flanks streaked with brownish-black : bill dark-brown, 
the lower mandible paler towards the base ; feet pale-brown, with long and slightly 
curved hind-claw : iris dark-brown. The female closely resembles the male, but is 
less strongly spotted on the breast and streaked below. After the autumn moult 
the colouring both above and below becomes yellower. Young birds are more buff 
iu tint, with the streaks of the under surface smaller and browner. 

This species is most abundant in summer on the upland moors, but is by no 
means confined to the mountains, for numbers may always be met with throughout 
the year on the open commons, farm lands, and pastures of the plains ; towards 
winter also, the higher and more exposed regions are deserted in favour of the 
better sheltered localities of the lowlands, and particularl}^ those near the sea-shore. 
In its habits the Meadow-Pipit, as its name indicates, is much less arboreal than 
the Tree-Pipit, perching far more frequently on bushes, rocks, or low walls than 
on trees : its flight is similar to that of the Wagtails ; but like the Meadow- Pipit 
it often indulges in an upward song-flight. 

The song is not so loud or prolonged as that of Anthus trivialis, and the late 
Mr. Charles A. Witchell says that it " rises crying, chuwick, chuwick, ckiiwick, 
repeated many times, and descends singing, /sc<: tsce /see repeated ; or else it 
changes the accent from the first to the second syllable in the first cries, and 
ascends with chinvick chinvick repeated, with the same ending as before." The call- 

198 The Meadow-Pipit. 

note is described as a low clear ist, often rapidl}' repeated, aud the alarm-note as 
a short iv/iit. 

The nidification of the Meadow-Pipit usuall}- commences in April, the nest 
being almost always well concealed and invariablj- on the ground, frequently in a 
meadow, or on swarap}- ground among reeds, on a bank half hidden by coarse 
grasses, and one which I found early in IMay, containing almost fledged nestlings, 
was built in the middle of a mass of coarse grass on a mound in an opening near 
the centre of a dense tangled Kentish shaw ; it has also been found in ling ; at 
the foot of a bush ; in a cavity under an overhanging bank, or stone. 

The materials of the nest consist of dry bents, and sometimes a little moss, 
with a lining of finer grass or rootlets and hair ; like most other nests it varies 
considerabl}' in bulk and compactness. The eggs are not much unlike those of 
the Rock-Pipit, excepting that they are smaller; in number the}- var}- from four 
to six, their ground-tint being gre3nsh or greenish-white, more or less densely 
mottled with olive-brown, often forming an ill-shaped zone towards the larger end, 
where also dark hair-lines are frequently present. The Meadow- Pipit is usuall}^ 

The food of this species in the summer consists of insects and their larvae, 
spiders, small centipedes, small worms, and fresh- water mollusca ; but in winter 
when insect- food is scarce, small seeds and even grain are eaten. 

Stevenson, in his " Birds of Norfolk," says : — " The Meadow-Pipit or Tit-Lark 
is one of the most common of our resident species, and generally distributed 
throughout the country. On heaths and commons, by the banks of rivers, in 
meadows and marshes, on the grassy summits of our lofty cliffs, or the low marram 
hills upon the sandy beach, the cheeping note of this familiar bird meets us at 
every turn, and in more cultivated districts, it springs at our approach from the 
arable land, and, drifting like waste paper down the wind, is gone with a yliif, 
yhit, yhit, almost before wc fairly see it. In summer it is nowhere more abundant 
than in the district of the broads, where it sings from the top of the small alder 
and sallow bushes, which are scattered in man}' places over the dry marshes, and 
cheeping as it ascends from a projecting spra}-, utters its simple but pleasing song, 
with quivering wings and outspread tail, as it slowly descends to its station 

The above is the most characteristic description of the Tit-Lark which I have 
met with, and, therefore, I have not hesitated to quote it for the benefit of those 
not conversant with this species. 

My first experience of the Meadow- Pipit as an aviarj' bird was in October, 
1888, when a bird-catcher brought me a male example which I turned into my outer 

The Meadow-Pipit. 199 

aviary : I found it perfectly harmless and amiable towards the other inhabitants of 
the aviary, until other specinens of its species were associated with it ; and, having 
no mate of its own, it took a great fancy to a Hedge-Si)arrow, but the latter had 
already made up to a Garden- Warbler : I recorded this in the "Zoologist" for 
Jul}', 1889, as follows: — "I frequently noticed my Hedge-Sparrow following the 
Garden-Warbler about, and trj'ing to entice him to pair with her ; on one occasion 
I noticed her behaving in a similar manner towards the Pied- Wagtail, but both 
birds treated her with the utmost indifference ; the Meadow-Pipit, however, strutted 
about in the greatest excitement, and tried in ever}^ way to make up to her, though 
she constantly gave a peck whenever he advanced near to her." 

In November, 1889, nine Meadow-Pipits were brought to me by a bird-catcher, 
who sold them to me at 2d. apiece ; they were all freshl}' netted and very wild. 
I turned the whole of these birds out with that received the previous year, and 
hoped that I should have the pleasure of hearing some of them sing in 1890; but 
first the Hedge-Sparrow attacked and killed several of them, and then they began 
quarrelling among themselves, fighting like little Game-cocks whenever they met, 
so that by December only two remained alive, and even one of these succumbed 
to its injuries before the end of the year, leaving a solitary hen.* 

To look at these elegant little birds one would never imagine that they could 
exhibit evil passions ; but my experience clearly demonstrates the danger of 
attempting to keep more than one male in an enclosure. The female which re- 
mained and was so sprightly a bird, that for some mouths I imagined her to be 
a male, eventuall}' proved her sex b}' laying an egg in a nest built by a Canary 
in one of the bushes, about two feet from the ground : it was an odd place for a 
Tit-Lark to lay in, but perhaps not so remarkable as the fact that a Canary, turned 
loose into an aviary, and having no model to guide her, should have reverted to 
the ancient nest of her species which her ancestors, probabl}^ for hundreds of years, 
had never seen. I am led to make these observations, because Charles Dixon in 
his "Jottings about Birds," pp. 235-239, is so indignant with those who insist 
that the architectural power of birds is instinctive. To my mind it is infinitely 
more difficult to believe that besotted looking sleepy fledglings should be capable 
of appreciating the intricacies of the nests which they are leaving, and should be 
able so to fix them in their memories, as (a 3'ear afterwards) to be in a position 
to reproduce them ; than that the art should be instinctive. Mr. Dixon has indeed 

• This true relation of what occurred in one of my aviaries has been stigmatized as slanderous, and it has 
been suggested that the aviarj- contained a ''Happy family" collection of vicious Parrakeets, i\:c. ; but I have 
had far too much experience to play such pranks: on the contrary my Waxbill aviary was the one selected; 
it is 16 feet long and therefore there was not even the excuse of crowding to account for the vicious behaviour 
of the Pipits. 


200 The Meadow-Pipit. 

shown that some English Chaffinches taken to New Zealand built an aberrant 
nest there ; but this proves absolutely nothing ; for abnormal nests are b}^ no means 
uncommon even in England : — I have a House-Sparrow's nest built like that of 
a Duck, a large thick-walled open saucer (of the usual materials) placed in the 
middle of a hawthorn bush ; I have a Spotted Flycatcher's nest built in a narrow 
crevice in a brick-wall, and formed like a slipper ; with several other aberrant nests 
to be mentioned later in the work : I have also proved that Goldfinches and Grey 
Singing-finches in an aviarj-, prefer building their nests upon the floor of a Hartz- 
Canar}' cage, to utilizing a bush. These facts clearly show that birds do not build 
by imitation, but distinctly inherit and adapt their parents' handicraft, just as, in 
a lesser degree, humau beings do ; for it is a notorious fact that man}' artists are 
able to trace their power to a direct ancestor, whether in painting, music, or even 
logic. Aloreover, as study is necessary to perfect our gifts, so also with young 
birds several nests are often commenced and pulled to pieces before a satisfactory 
result is attained. The bird in the nest sees next to nothing of its character, the 
lining only is constantly before its eyes, and the lining is that part of the structure 
which is formed mechanically, by the squatting down and twisting round of the 
parent bird : how then, even if it had a retentive memory, could it learn the method 
of construction of the complete outer walls. To my mind this is infinitely more 
inconceivable than that the power to build a certain type of nest shoud be inher- 
ited ; the fact that heredity is not incapable of modification, or blind, would explain 
why a bird was still able to adapt the outline of its nest or even the materials to 
altered conditions. 



The Red-Throated Pipit. The Tawny Pipit. 201 

Family— MO TA CILLID^E. 

The Red-Throated Pipit. 

Antlius ctyviniis, P.\LL. 

SEEBOHM rightly sa3'S that this bird has scarcely any valid claim to be 
regarded as a British bird. The first example recorded was obtained at 
Unst, in 1854; a second was shot at Rainham, in Kent, in April, 1880; 
a third was caught at Brighton, in 1884; and a fourth was obtained in Sussex, 
in 1895. The species being a mere chance straggler to our shores when on 
migration, and ver}^ rarely met with, a description of its habits would be out of 
place in the present work. 

Family- MO TA CILLID^. 

The Tawny Pipit. 

Aiilhiis campestris, LiNX. 

IT is quite possible that this species has been merely overlooked ; inasmuch as, 
since its first discovery as an accidental visitor to Great Britain by the late 
Mr. G. Dawson Rowley, a good many specimens have been obtained. 
A summer visitor to Europe, this bird is said to breed in suitable localities 
as far north as lat. 57°. In Northern x\frica it appears to be partially resident, its 
winter migrations extending through Egj'pt to Nubia and Abyssinia : in Western 
Africa it is known to migrate as far as Damaraland. In Palestine it is resident, 
and from Asia Minor it extends to Turkestan and North-western India. 

202 The Tawny Pipit. 

In Great Britain most of the examples of the Tawn}' Pipit which have been 
obtained have occurred at or near Brighton, but it has been shot as far to the 
south as the Scilly Islands, and as far north as Bridlington, in Yorkshire. 

According to Gatke this species " visits Heligoland in ver}' small numbers ; 
only now and again may a solitary example be met with on a fine warm afternoon 
in May or August. Hardl}' more than three or four of the birds are shot in the 
course of a year, though perhaps double the number, certainly not more, may 
occur during that time." 

The adult male in spring plumage is of a lighter or darker sandy-brown 
colour, the centres of the feathers on the upper surface being darker, excepting 
on the rump, darkest on the crown ; a buffish-white superciliary streak ; lores 
dark-brown; ear-coverts greyish-brown ; wing-coverts dark-brown, edged with buff; 
flights brown, with tawny edges ; tail brown, the two outside feathers white, 
suffused with sandy-brown ; the inner web partly brown ; the second pair brown 
almost to the shaft : under surface buffish-white, deeper on the breast, which is 
faintly streaked with brown ; upper mandible dark-brown, lower mandible yellowish ; 
feet yellowish-brown ; iris dark-brown. Female similar to the male but slightly 
smaller. After the autumn moult the colouring of both sexes is warmer. Birds 
of the year are more tawny than adults, and have the sides of the throat and 
breast somewhat conspicuously streaked. 

As regards the haunts of this species, Seebohm saj'S that in Greece "it seems 
to prefer the open plains, and is very common in the almost treeless valley between 
the Parnassus and Thermopyle." " It is especially common on the undulating 
prairie country, half rock, and half grass and heath, between Athens and Marathon." 

Dixon ("Jottings") speaking of it in Algeria, says that it is "most abundant 
in winter. It breeds on the northern slopes of the Atlas, and in winter does not 
appear to go further south than the Hauts Plateaux." Of its habits, the same 
author says : — " To look at its plumage one might almost expect to meet with it 
only in the desert ; but in summer, at any rate, it does not frequent that sandy 
waste, and we onl}' met with it on the elevated plateaux bej'ond Constantine and 
in the neighbourhood of Batna and Lambessa. The road between these two latter 
places runs through rich meadows and barle3'-fields, and abounded with Tawny 
Pipits in abundance. I saw them only in pairs ; the}' were very tame, and often 
allowed themselves to be almost trodden upon before the}^ would take wing. I 
often saw them running about very quickly over the bare pieces of ground, stop- 
ping now and then to look round to see if they were being pursued. When 
flushed they would often fly for a little distance in a very straigh forward manner 
(not undulating, as their usual flight is) and perch on a little tuft of higher vege- 

The Tawny Pipit. 203 

tation, or on a boulder, or even a paling. Many of the birds were on the road, 
where you could witness their actions very closely as they ran up and down like 
a Wagtail, often giving their tail a sharp jerk, accompanied by a flicking movement 
of the wings. They seemed to especially prefer a large unenclosed plain of rough 
land on which no crop was sown, what we should call summer-fallow in England. 
Here I repeatedly saw the birds soar into the air for a little way and sing their 
loud but simple song, which put me in mind of the Sky-Lark's notes, although 
not so rich or so sweet. It does not soar so high as the Tree-Pipit, and seems 
anxious to get to the ground again. When alarmed by the report of a gun, the 
birds close at hand would generally rise for some distance into the air and betake 
themselves to safer quarters in a drooping flight, uttering a short ivhit or yhit as 
they went."* 

Col. L. H. Irby, speaking of Tawny Pipits on the Spanish side of the Straits 
of Gibraltar, says: — "We never met with them on low ground, and there is no 
doubt they breed high iip on the sierras." 

The Tawny Pipit is a late breeder, building its nest towards the end of May 
under a shrub, amongst growing crops, beneath a tuft of rank herbage, or under 
the shelter of a stone or clod of earth. The materials of the nest consist of dry 
grass, bents, and roots, with a lining of horsehair : the eggs number from five to 
six, greyish-, or creamy-white, streaked or spotted somewhat heavily with dark- 
grey and purplish-, or reddish-brown. 

The food consists principally, if not entirely, of insects and their larvse, and 
doubtless of spiders and small centipedes, as is the general habit of insectivorous 

I should not anticipate that much satisfaction would be obtained from keeping 
the Tawny Pipit either in cage or aviary, unless its natural tameness induced it 
to sing : my Tit-Larks, although by no means unusually wild, never once sang in 
confinement ; yet they were in an aviary 16 feet long : their only charm, therefore, 
consisted in their graceful actions, both on the ground and when flying ; but 
neither in colouring or grace can they at all compare with Wagtails. 

* O. V. Aplin (Zoologist, 1892, p. 14) sa)-s : — "Alarm-uote chit, chit; soug short, but with a few rather 
good notes." 


204 Richard's Pipit. 

Family -MO TA CILLIDAl. 

Richard's Pipit. 

Anthus fichardi, ViElLL. 

SINCE 1824 this species has been so frequent!}' met with in Great Britain 
that, although only an autumn straggler to our shores, it has fairl}' earned 
its title to be considered a British bird : as regards its distribution on the 
Continent, Howard Saunders saj-s : — " Richard's Pipit has been met with, as a 
rare straggler, in the southern districts of Norway- and Sweden ; but on Borkum, 
Heligoland, and along the coasts of Holland, Belgium, and France, it is not 
uncommon on migration. In Central Europe it is rare, though in the south of 
France, especially in Provence, it is not unfrequent ; near Malaga and throughout 
the south of Spain it is in some years tolerabl}' common from November to April ; 
while it occurs irregularly in Italy, and in the basin of the Mediterranean, 
occasionally visiting North Africa. Its usual breeding-grounds are not to be found 
west of Turkestan ; in the valley of the Yenesei, Mr. Seebohm found both old 
and young in August, up to 58° N. lat. ; and it nests abundantly on the elevated 
steppes of Eastern Turkestan, the Lake Baikal district, and Mongolia. In winter 
it visits South China, Burma, and the Indian region. 

The first recognized British specimen of this species was caught near London, 
in October, 1812, and was recorded twelve 3'ears later; since then sixt}' or more 
specimens have been noted, mostly from the south of England, and more particularly 
from the coast of Sussex ; it has also been met with in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, 
Oxford, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, and Northumberland : 
in Scotland it is said to have been seen in Banffshire. 

When in breeding plumage Richard's Pipit above is of a sandy-brown colour ; 
the feathers, excepting on the rump, with dark centres ; those of the upper tail- 
coverts ill-defined ; wing-coverts tipped with tawny ; flights margined with buffish- 
white ; two outermost tail-feathers white with dark margins to the outer webs, the 
second pair also with dark shaft ; remaining feathers dark-brown, the central pair 
with pale edges ; under surface white, faintly tinted with buff, excepting on the 
breast which is distinctly buff, and streaked with dark-brown ; a line of spots also 
running up the sides of the neck to the base of the bill ; the latter is dark-brown, 

■ (" 

i' , 










Richard's Pipit. 205 

the lower mandible paler : feet pale horn-brown ; iris hazel. The female is a little 
smaller than the male, but similarly coloured. Young birds have whiter margins 
to the feathers, and the under-surface streaking is more defined, extending also to 
the flanks. 

Speaking of the habits of this species in Siberia, Seebohm says : — " It delights 
in wet pastures and rich meadows left for hay in northern climates, where the 
harvest is late, and it can build its nest in the long grass, and rear its young 
before the mowers come to disturb it, and where it can find abundance of food 
in the short grass after the hay is cleared away, just when the j^oung are most 
voracious. These conditions it finds to perfection in the flat meadows that stretch 
away, often for miles, on the banks of the great rivers of Central Siberia, and 
which are overflowed for some daj'S when summer suddeuly comes, and the snow 
melts, and the ice on the river breaks up. I found Richard's Pipit extremely 
abundant in the meadows on the banks of the Yeuesay, near Yenesaisk. The 
country is almost a dead flat for miles, and is intersected with half dried-up river- 
beds and chains of swamp}^ lakes, full of tall sedges and reeds and water plants of 
various kinds, and half concealed by the willow bushes and alders, whilst far away 
in the distance the horizon is bounded on every side by the forest. These oases 
of grass in the boundless forest are the paradise of Richard's Pipit." 

Speaking of it in India, Jerdon says : — " It always affects swampy or wet 
ground, grassy beds of rivers, edges of tanks, and especially wet rice-fields, either 
singly or in small parties. Its flight is strong and undulating, and it flies some 
distance in general before it alights again." 

With regard to its note Brook states that it is "a soft double chirp, reminding 
one strongly of the note of a Bunting." Dr. Scully says that its note as it rises 
from the ground is a sweet soft twitter : the call-note is said to be " soft but 
loud." Herr Gatke however observes: — "According to my own experience, extending 
over more than fifty years, during which time thousands of these birds have come 
under my notice, this call-note consists of a loud, rapid and harshly ejaculated r- 
r-riliip, sounding, in the case of young birds, almost like r-r-reep ; this is confirmed 
by the local name of this bird which is derived from its call-note. This note the 
bird utters only once at every rise, except in some rare cases when, after being 
surprised, it rises suddenly, repeating r-r-riip-riipp several times in quick succession. 
As the bird flies almost always at a good height, and its extremely original call- 
note is audible at a great distance, it betrays its presence to the shooter while 
still far away ; when the call-note is no longer heard, one may conclude with 
certainty that the bird has settled on the ground. 

In the manner of its flight this Pipit partly resembles the Wagtails, partly 

2o6 Richard's Pii'it. 

the Larks. If it is flying over a considerable distance at a not ver}^ great elevation, 
it progresses in wide and shallow undulations, not, however, in so striking a manner 
as the Wagtails. Its flight at considerable elevations is more like that of the 
Larks. Arrived at the goal of its flight, the bird executes a fluttering or shaking 
movement before descending, previously for a moment surveying the place on which 
it intends to make sure that no danger is lurking for it there. In the course of 
its elevated flight it frequently halts for a moment in a similar manner." 

The nest of this species, which appears not to have been described, but which 
doubtless resembles those of other Pipits, is built early in June in a depression in 
the earth among grass : the eggs, which number from four to six, are greenish- 
white or pinkish-white, spotted and blotched with various shades of brown : they 
somewhat resemble those of the Rock-Pipit excepting in size. 

When on the earth Richard's Pipit progresses much in the same fashion as 
its allies, by running ; its food also consists chiefly of insects, their larvae, and 
doubtless of spiders. Captain Legge states that in Ceylon it often seizes a passing 
butterfly on the wing. In an aviary it would doubtless eat the same soft food as 
that already recommended for insectivorous birds. 

Gatke says : — " I kept a young autumn bird of this species, slightly grazed 
on the wing by a shot, for several days alive in a large cage, in company with 
several Buntings and Finches, with which it agreed very well, The bird was not 
at all shy or wild, but ran about nimbly and cheerfully, and also accepted readil}-, 
and within ni}- immediate neighbourhood,* some maimed flies which were offered 
it. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for maintaining an insect feeder, and, much 
to my chagrin, was obliged to kill it, so as to avoid torturing it uselessly. I was 
the more sorry for this, as I felt convinced that I could quite easily have kept it 
alive with ants' eggs, for it is a hardy and b}- no means a delicate bird." 

If Herr Gatke had only been aware of the fact that all insectivorous birds 
are passionately fond of yolk of egg, and that it suits them well, he need not 
have been unhappy, or unnecessarily have taken the life of his pet; moreover, with 
a canvas bag at the end of a stick, he could (in a few minutes) have swept up 
as many insects, spiders, etc., as would have provided his Pipit with a substantial 
meal. Meanwhile, he could have written for a supply of dried ants' cocoons and 
preserved yolk of egg ; and on this diet, with the addition of bread-crumbs and 
potato, his bird would have lived happily through the winter. The moral of which 
is that before attempting to keep birds, one should know more about them than 
can be learnt from purely scientific works. 

• This strikes me as a bail translation: it should (I think) be— "when I was close to it." — .\. G. B. 

Rock Pirn 

The Water-Pipit. The Rock-Pipit. 207 

Family— MO TA CIL LID.^. 

The Water-Pipit. 

Aiithus spipoli'tta, Linn. 

ONLY four examples of this species, all from Sussex, has been recognized : 
I, therefore, do not consider that (at present) it has much claim to be 
regarded as British : at best it is but a chance and very rare straggler 
to our shores. 

Family— MO TA CILLID.F. 

The Rock-Pipit. 

Atithus obscurus, Lath. 

SEEBOHM says that the " Rock-Pipit is little more than a coast-form of the 
Water- Pipit, and appears to be confined to the rocky portions of the coasts 
of North- Western Europe, from the White Sea to the Bay of Biscay. It is 
found on the shores of the Baltic ; but there is no satisfactory evidence of its 
frequenting those of the Mediterranean. It is a resident throughout its range, except 
in the extreme north." 

" The Rock-Pipit is a resident on all the coasts of the British Islands, with 
the exception of the low-lying eastern shores south of Spurn, where it only appears 
as a straggler or on migration. It is found commonly in the Channel Islands, in 

2o8 The Rock-Pipit. 

the Hebrides, St. Kilda, the Orkneys, and Shetland, and is also common in the 
Faroes, although not known to visit Iceland or Greenland." 

John Cordeanx in his " Birds of the Humber District," says that this species 
" Occasionally occurs during the autumn within the Humber, either on the sea 
embankments or along the borders of the marsh drains." 

This apparent discrepancy between the statements of Seebohm and Cordeaux 
is explained by Howard Saunders, who observes : — " generally frequenting, during 
the breeding-season, those portions of the sea-coast which are of a rock}- nature- 
conditions which are not found between the Thames and Humber ; although during 
autunm and winter it is found on salt-marshes and in the mudd}- estuaries where 
there is sea-weed." 

The adult male in the spring is olive-brown above, streaked, excepting on the 
rump, with dark-brown, the outer pair of tail-feathers is characterized by an oblique 
smoky-grey patch on the inner web ; * an ill-defined bufi&sh superciliary stripe ; 
chin whitish ; remainder of under surface buff, warmer on the breast, and more 
olivaceous on the flanks, which, together with the throat and breast, are streaked 
with dark-brown : bill deep-brown, the lower mandible paler at the base ; feet 
brown ; iris hazel. The female resembles the male but is probabh* smaller. In 
the autumn the plumage of the upper parts becomes more olivaceous and that of 
the under parts yellower. The young are more heavily streaked on the flanks 
than adults. 

As I never had an opportunity of studying this bird in its wild haunts — the 
cliffs, rocks, and lowlands of our sea shores, and the desolate islands near our 
coasts — consequently I never personally took its nest ; it was, therefore, with great 
pleasure that I examined a series of clutches of the eggs obtained at Uist, in May 
1884, by Mr. T. Copeland, and forwarded by him to Mr. Harting. A clutch of 
five eggs was subsequently presented to me b}' Mr. Copeland. 

Gatke (The Birds of Heligoland) sa3's that this species " is a solitar}-, serious 
creature, little caring for the societ}' either of members of its own or of other 
species. While searching for food, it walks step b}' step, only rarely at an accel- 
erated pace, over the sea-tang on the shore, or on the rocks and (i/cbn's exposed at 
low tide at the base of the cliff. It utters its call-note onlj- when taking to flight, 
a single call repeated after rather long pauses. The note is deeper and longer 
drawn than that of the Meadow-Pipit, and has an agreeable sound, by no means 
harsh like that of the Tree-Pipit ; if the bird is suddenh' surprised, it often in 
flying away utters its call two or three times in succession. It is b}- no means a 
shy bird, and never flies very far ; if repeatedl}- disturbed while bus}- at the foot 

* In the Water-Pipil this patch is white. 

The Rock-Pipit. 209 

of the cliff, it flits from one piece of rock to another, never more than fifteen or 
twenty paces at a time, finall}^ perching on a prominence half way np the face of 
the cliff, where it will qnietly wait until one has passed along underneath it, after 
which it will resume its occupation on the shore." 

Regarding the song of this species, Seebohm says : — Like all the other 
Pipits, the Rock- Pipit seldom sings except on the wing. When it is in full song 
its notes are very musical, and rival those of the Meadow-Pipit, but can scarcely 
compare with those of the Tree-Pipit, either in variety, richness, or duration. In 
the pairing-season the Rock- Pipit sings incessantly, mounting into the air and 
gliding down again to his rocky perch on fully expanded wings and tail. The 
first reall}/ fine day in early spring is the signal for the commencement of the song, 
and it is continued until the young are hatched. The call-note of this bird is a 
shrill hist or pst, most pertinaceously kept up if it is seriously alarmed or its nest 
is in danger. This call-note is uttered both when the bird is sitting on the rocks 
or the ground, or when fluttering in the air ; and it often soars to the zenith of 
its flight uttering it quickly, and then returns to its perch in full song."* 

Mr. O. V. Aplin (Zoologist, 1892, p. 14) speaking of the Alpine Pipit, says: 
" The song reminds one of the Rock- Pipit's, to which I had been listening 
at Dover — zig zig zig zi zi zi zi, running down and becoming quicker at the 

The nest is generally formed towards the end of April, on or close to the 
sea- shore, but sometimes in a cavity several hundred feet up the side of a cliff; it 
is often placed in a crevice in the rocks, or in a wall, a hole in a bank, a rabbit- 
burrow, in a clump of sea-pink, or behind a heap of sea-weed. The materials vary 
according to its situation, the basis being dry grass, sometimes intermingled with 
sea-weed, the stalks of various plants, or moss ; and lined, either with fine grass 
or hair. The eggs vary in number from four to five, and in colouring exhibit 
much the same variations as eggs of the Sky-Lark, the ground colour being greenish- 
white, speckled all over with grey, and usually mottled (most densely towards the 
larger end) with olive-brown : some eggs are heavily blotched and some are zoned, 
the general tint is also sometimes redder than usual, but I have not hitherto seen 
the variety described by Howard Saunders — "reddish ones, like those of a Tree- 
Pipit," unless he means the reddish-tinged (and not the reddish-chocolate) variety 
of that bird's &gg. 

The food of the Rock- Pipit consists of insects and their larvae, but more 
especially the flies which are attracted to rotten sea-weed, also the innumerable 

* This statement seems to imply that the call- and alarm-notes are identical : if true, this is a somewhat 
aberrant case. — A. G. B. 

2IO The Rock-Pipit. 

small mollusca and Crustacea to be found among sea-weed and occasionally seeds, 
but particularly in wanter. 

Swaj-sland has kept the Rock-Pipit in confinement, and recommends that it 
should be fed in the same way as a Wood-Lark ; but the food which he advises to 
be given to all insectivorous birds is in the highest degree unnatural, consisting 
largely of chopped raw meat, German paste, etc. I have not the least doubt that 
au}- of the advertised egg-foods, mixed with bread-crumbs and moistened, would 
be infinitely more wholesome as a staple food : to this I would add for the present 
species, cockroaches, mealworms, spiders, centipedes, and caterpillars, as well as 
small snails. Although most birds do not care for woodlice, it is not improbable 
that the Rock- Pipit would eat them. 

Being cousiderabl}^ larger than the Meadow-, or Tree-Pipits, it would be 
necessary to use judgment as to the associates of this species : moreover, as the 
gentle looking Pipits are even more pugnacious than Wagtails, it would be very 
unwise to place two males together in the same aviary. Even one male should 
be watched at first, for individuals of the famil)^ Motacillida: sometimes make things 
lively for an aviary full of birds twice their own size, and infinitel}^ more powerful 
than themselves. 




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